Virginia nursing homes still waiting on testing; struggling with PPE

Virginia

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Gov. Ralph Northam’s administration is still working to expand testing and stabilize supplies in long-term care facilities — where nearly 60 percent of Virginia’s coronavirus deaths have occurred — as providers call for more government support.

Former Health Commissioner Dr. Karen Remley said the state conducted about 10,000 diagnostic tests on Tuesday, though that data is not yet reflected on the Virginia Department of Health’s website. She couldn’t say for sure whether the state would consistently meet that daily goal moving forward, since community testing schedules tend to influence those totals.

Gov. Northam said the $200 million in new federal funding that the state is getting to increase testing capacity should make a difference.

“Our top priority and I think our largest challenge is the number of nursing homes and long-term care facilities and so this funding is going to be very helpful in making sure that we have the testing supplies and that we have the individuals that can go in and administer the tests,” Northam said.

At the beginning of May, the Virginia Department of Health said they had compiled a list of 100 nursing homes where they planned to test all residents and staff in an effort to catch asymptomatic cases.

So far, the state has started “point prevalence testing” at less than half of those facilities, according to Deputy Commissioner of Population Health Dr.Laurie Forlano. On Wednesday, she said 43 had started the process and just 12 of those had completed it.

This comes as the American Health Care Association and National Center of Assisted Living argues more resources need to be committed to testing in nursing homes.

The organization says it would cost $8.7 million to test every nursing home staff member and resident in Virginia–nearly 58,000 people total across 287 facilities. This does not include the cost of testing at assisted living and other long-term care providers, according to the organization.

The AHCA/NCAL says testing every staff member and resident in a recurring manner is unsustainable without a substantial increase in government support. “Even the CDC’s recent recommendation to test all nursing home staff weekly would cost more than $1 billion every month [nationwide],” a spokesperson said in an email to 8News.

Asked if the recent boost in federal funding will make it possible for the state to test every nursing home more than once, Northam didn’t commit to the goal but said, “It will certainly make it a lot more possible.”

In a statement, Mark Parkinson, president of the AHCA/NCAL called on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to grant their request for $10 billion in emergency relief to support this effort.

“This is a significant undertaking and cost for nursing homes to shoulder on their own,” Parkinson said.

Earlier this week, the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association began publishing how many licensed nursing homes are having trouble obtaining various forms of personal protective equipment within the next 72 hours.

Here are the latest numbers as of May 20, 2020.

Source: Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association Licensed Nursing Home Dashboard

In a statement, Keith Hare, president of the Virginia Health Care Association-Virginia Center for Assisted Living, said, “We hope this public reporting illustrates the ongoing urgent need to support long-term care right now.”

At a press conference on Wednesday, Gov. Ralph Northam said the state’s PPE supply is sufficient and a robust distribution network is in place.

“If a clinic, nursing home or another provider needs help we want to provide that help but we also need them to use the private supply chain first,” Northam said.

Northam said the Virginia Department of General Services recently published a list of verified vendors that nursing homes can reach out to.

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