Statement from Mass Senior Care Association Regarding Mobilization of Nursing Homes to Meet Resident and Staff Needs During Covid-19 Crisis
Massachusetts Senior Care Association is working closely with the Baker Administration, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and other state and federal agencies to support the state's nursing homes in mitigating the spread of the COVID-19 virus that poses a lifethreatening danger to our elderly residents.
The Association is assisting nursing facilities across the Commonwealth to mobilize all resources necessary to implement every available measure in order to protect our vulnerable residents and dedicated staff from the spread of COVID-19. Their safety and wellbeing remain top priorities for our members.
Our more than 50,000 direct care staff are on the frontline of this crisis making personal sacrifices and are often working overtime to protect our most vulnerable residents. We extend our heartfelt gratitude to our staff who are working tirelessly to provide quality and compassionate care to our residents during this unprecedented crisis.
Steps We Are Taking to Support Our Members and Protect Residents and Staff
• Mass Senior Care is issuing daily guidance to long term care facilities that is based on the most currently available data and information from the CDC, the Department of Public Health and other federal and state agencies.
• We are working to secure the necessary Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that is urgently needed to protect both our residents and our staff. Our most recent assessment survey shows that most facilities lack essential supplies and could be running out of them shortly. This includes normal surgical masks, N-95 masks, gowns, gloves, face shields, thermometer covers, and alcohol-based sanitizing gels.
• We are advocating for critically needed state mitigation funding to help defray significant new wage and supply costs associated with our COVID-19 mitigation efforts, including ensuring continuity of wages should a staff member need to self-quarantine.
• Staff are working overtime to meet new clinical protocols to cease all group dining and group activities in order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, instead residents are receiving one-to-one assistance at meal times and restorative activities are being performed one resident at a time, which means we need many more staffing hours in order to ensure that the basic care needs of residents are being met.
• Enforcing the restriction on visitors to nursing home facilities is emotionally difficult, but a necessary temporary measure. Facilities are working with families to continue to meet the social and emotional needs of our residents by offering alternative modes of communication through phone calls, video calls and social media.
• Reliable childcare has been a vital concern for our staff and we are hopeful that as the state continues to ramp up access to Emergency Child Care Programs that the children of front line staff will have access to reliable, high quality childcare services.
What The Nursing Facility Provider Community Needs to Successfully Combat Covid-19
We are working to secure that necessary immediate regulatory and financial relief is made available in order to enable nursing facilities to respond effectively to the COVID-19 crisis. Our ability to meet the needs of our residents and staff during this time of crisis is dependent largely on our ability to secure PPE, support our staff and funding relief, including:
• Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is one of our biggest challenges. It is urgently needed in order to keep both our residents and staff safe. During this extremely critical time when these supplies are essential to prevent the spread of COVID-19, it is imperative that supplies are readily available for all health care professionals.
• Regulatory relief - An already severe staff shortage has been exacerbated by this pandemic. We have therefore encouraged the Commonwealth to use the state’s authority to provide temporary regulatory flexibility to enable facilities to care for their residents by allowing nursing facilities to hire and utilize health care staff that have been furloughed as a result of the temporary ban on elective procedures and non-emergent appointments in ambulatory surgery centers, physician offices and other outpatient clinics, for example.
• Medicaid Presumptive Eligibility - To help ensure facilities have the resources necessary to ensure continuity of care, we have requested that the state immediately extend presumptive eligibility for individuals applying for Medicaid nursing facility care, to enable facilities to secure Medicaid payment sooner. These are costs that ultimately will be paid by Medicaid, but more timely payment is urgently needed today.
• Financial Relief - Lastly, nursing facilities will need financial relief to cover the significant new costs associated with COVID-19 mitigation efforts. We project these mitigation efforts will cost nursing facilities at least $287 million due largely to skyrocketing overtime pay and contract labor needed to cover vacant shifts, hiring of new staff to implement precautionary screenings and in-room dining and activities, as well as increased PPE supplies. This preliminary estimate is based on mitigation costs all facilities are implementing to prevent a widespread outbreak. Those facilities that encounter an outbreak would incur significant additional costs. This crisis is occurring when facilities are already financially vulnerable, which makes it even more imperative that necessary resources are made available by the state quickly to facilities.
To help fund these new expenses, $1.1 billion in enhanced federal Medicaid matching revenue has been made available to the Commonwealth by Congress as part of the COVID-19 federal relief bill.
We thank the Baker Administration and legislative leaders who are working together to support and protect nursing home residents and staff. We will continue to provide the necessary resources to our nursing facilities to implement protocols aimed at protecting the frail elderly and nursing home staff from a potential outbreak.
---Tara Gregorio, President, Massachusetts Senior Care Association