Nursing homes refusing to admit discharged hospital patients amid coronavirus worries

Amid the coronavirus epidemic, hospitals trying to discharge patients quickly are hitting a roadblock—nursing homes reluctant to accept them due to fear of infecting their residents, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Several nursing homes are hesitant about taking in people, including returning residents, who have been recently discharged from the hospital but cannot prove they do not have the novel coronavirus.

Michael R. Wasserman, MD, president of the California Association of Long Term Care Medicine and medical director at a California nursing home, said his facility will not accept patients discharged from the hospital who cannot provide negative results from two coronavirus tests performed 24 hours apart.

Dr. Wasserman referred to the deadly coronavirus outbreak at Kirkland, Wash.-based Life Care Center nursing home, where 35 people died.

Taking in an older adult who might have the virus is "akin to premeditated murder," he told the LA Times.

There have also been complaints that the state's guidance on this matter has been confusing.

"First, they were telling nursing homes to take patients from hospitals, then they were telling us not to take patients. Now there’s conflicting guidance saying be prepared to take them," Dr. Wasserman said to the LA Times.

Los Angeles County Department of Health Services officials said it has been challenging to increase hospital capacity by discharging older adults to skilled nursing facilities.

Slow testing has added to that challenge, since the time it takes to prove a person does not have the virus extends the time an older adult may have to stay in a hospital bed.

But many nursing homes around the country are standing firm.

Kristen Knapp, a spokeswoman for the Florida Health Care Association, which represents most Florida nursing homes, told the LA Times that her organization is telling members to require negative test results for returning residents.

"We care for a very vulnerable population, and so our goal is to do everything we can to keep the virus out of the building. We're really focused on that," she said.

More articles on patient flow:
Will COVID-19 overwhelm hospitals near you? 16 things to know
Washington healthcare leaders draft statewide plan for care rationing
Are hospitals in your city ready for a surge of COVID-19 patients? A look at 4 scenarios

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