Challenges persist in US nursing homes post-COVID: HHS

Poor infection control measures in U.S. nursing homes contributed to 17,000 deaths during the pandemic, according to a report published by HHS' inspector general’s office.

During the height of the pandemic, more than 1,300 nursing homes had infection rates of 75% or higher, the report found. And while vaccines and boosters have curbed some of COVID-19's severity across the population, vaccination rates for both nursing home residents and staff remains low. 

"Just as airplanes cannot be repaired while in flight, nursing home challenges could not be fully repaired during the pandemic," Rachel Bryan, a program analyst for OIG told The New York Times. "We feel very strongly that as we come out of emergency mode, we take the time to reflect, learn and take real steps toward meaningful change."

Some of the major infection control challenges nursing homes reported included, difficulty developing designated COVID-19 units, fears that moving residents to COVID-19 units inadvertently spread the virus, and that federal guidance was often confusing and often "did not sufficiently consider what practices were feasible in the nursing home setting."

Some of the effects from these difficulties are still being felt by nursing home staff and residents, according to the report.

Understanding the challenges brought on by COVID-19, has shown that many still persist. A barrier to addressing some of these challenges, staffing, is something nursing homes across the country continue to grapple with.

"Not enough staff even exists," an anonymous nursing home administrator was quoted saying in the report. "Even if I paid all the money in the world and were fully staffed, it would only leave other nursing homes in dire straits." 

Others detailed that nursing home employment is not as desirable, making recruitment and retention difficult at a baseline. One anonymous worker shared in the report that, "when people hear you work in a nursing home, people look at you as less of a nurse than someone who works in an emergency room . . . like you have less knowledge, less skill." 

But just in September, President Joe Biden detailed a newly proposed minimum staffing requirements for nursing homes, which would require a registered nurse on-site at all times and "have enough nurses and nurse aides to provide routine bedside care, among other tasks."

Several nursing home leaders and even lawmakers have since come out against the proposed rule.

It remains unclear how the new Biden administration guidance will affect nursing homes in addressing these challenges going forward.

Copyright © 2024 Becker's Healthcare. All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy. Cookie Policy. Linking and Reprinting Policy.


Featured Whitepapers

Featured Webinars