Cracks in for profit nursing homes exposed during coronavirus

On this morning’s NPR broadcast Morning Edition, a young Chicago nursing home employee shares his experience working in a for profit facility before the coronavirus outbreak. He describes lack of gloves, staff, preventative equipment and more. His interviewers explore why nursing home residents are so exposed during this pandemic. To listen, start around the 8 minute mark. 

The journalists bring to light a few important points, points our office has been making to clients, colleagues, the press and advocates for weeks. Namely, nursing home patients aren’t just at risk because of age – nursing home patients are at high risk because the system of for profit care stinks. When we put profit over people, people get hurt. 

When this is all over, we will have data that reflects intra hospital infection rates, v. intra long term care infection rates. And with close to 50% of America’s deaths being linked to America’s nursing homes, the pattern will emerge. 

COUNTER POINT: Now, you may say – Lauren – we know nursing homes are not hospitals, they can’t be compared. True, but if the care isn’t comparable, why does Medicare / Medicaid pay $4,000 – $6,000 a month to a facility for patient care if a high level of care isn’t expected? 

  • Hospitals have infection protocols, which are followed.
  • Hospitals have enough staff to allow time for staff to wash hands between patient interactions, wear gloves, etc.
  • Doctors are in hospitals, and examine patients daily. 
  • Hospitals are designed with patient safety and not staff ease in mind.
  • Hospital staff is often paid for full time work, and provided benefits. This means when a nurse is sick in a hospital, she can likely take a day off – paid. 
  • Hospital staff are provided hours, shifts and earn pay that allows them to work only one job.  
  • Visitors are expected to wash hands, and follow certain infection protocol. 
  • Meals are not communal

Obviously, the list goes on. But here is why nursing homes are so at risk:

  • When a CNA at a nursing home is sick, she often comes to work because she has no benefits, no paid time off, no health insurance and must work hours to pay her bills.
  • When a CNA at a nursing home is given fewer hours, she will often pick up shifts at other facilities
  • When a CNA at a nursing home is assigned to a hall, she is assigned between 20-60 patients to care for AT ONE TIME during a shift
  • When a CNA at a nursing home is assigned these patients, she is expected to dress, feed, toliet, bathe and care for these patients – leaving no time to change clothes, wash hands, and clean up between patient care provision
  • When a patient is taken to meal time – he or she may be eating with other immune compromised individuals with little assistance
  • Visitors are not tracked, and infection protocols rarely apply to visitors

So, a solution might be to simply hire MORE STAFF, pay them better, and give them sufficient time between patient interactions. Yes, that is actually an excellent solution – but that will sure cut down on profits. 

So we as a society need to ask ourselves – do we want to allow for profits over care? Or do we want at least one industry, to put patient care first?

This virus has been devastating – but also illuminating. It has exposed the cracks in a broken system, that has long allowed for profits to prevail at the expense of patient care. 

I for one am hoping when this is over, we won’t tolerate it any longer. 

 

 

Lauren Ellerman

Lauren Ellerman

In 2011, Lauren Ellerman was named "Young Lawyer of the Year" by the Roanoke Bar Association for her work in the community. To speak with Lauren about your personal injury case, contact her at lellerman@frithlawfirm.com.