“COVID completely devastated nursing homes in the U.S.”
Dr. David Grabowski, a professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School, and a Nexus Fellow, made this statement before a House subcommittee hearing on the impact of the coronavirus in our nation’s nursing homes.
Among the staggering statistics Grabowski shared with the subcommittee:
- There were more than 1.2 million cases of COVID among nursing home residents, which led to roughly 172,000 COVID-related fatalities.
- More than 2,600 nursing home staff members died from COVID, “making nursing home workers the most dangerous job in America.”
- In the aftermath, both resident census levels and staff employment levels were down by more than 10% from pre-pandemic levels.
Drawing on his research, as well as his work on a commission with the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, Grabowski made recommendations for reform to improve the situation for caregivers and residents going forward.
Grabowski urged policymakers to take a system-level approach to policy reforms to protect residents and caregivers. He emphasized that it is not too late. “We have an incredible opportunity right now to address problems that we have ignored for far too long.”
He proposed recommendations for short-run policies in two areas:
- Increase vaccination levels
- Extend the federal vaccine mandate for nursing home staff to include booster doses. Currently, only about half of all staff are fully vaccinated.
- Provide federally supported vaccination clinics for facilities with lower booster vaccine rates for staff and residents, to ensure that residents and staff have access to a vaccine clinic.
- Improve staffing
- Introduce a federal minimum staffing standard
- Increase staff pay and benefits
- Provide opportunities for career advancement
- Create a better work environment
“The way the U.S. finances and regulates care in nursing home settings is ineffective, inefficient, fragmented and unsustainable.” – David Grabowski
As a move towards a federal long-term care benefit, Grabowski suggested an approach for locally testing and creating benefit implementation with established criteria to evaluate success. He also emphasized the importance of accurate financial information to ensure payments are adequate to cover comprehensive nursing home care. In addition, value-based nursing home payment models should be created to reward facilities for providing better quality.
Additional panel members of the expert witnesses testifying before the House subcommittee included: Alice Bonner PhD, RN, FAAN; Adelina Ramos, Certified Nursing Assistant and 1199NE member, from Greenville, RI; and Jasmine Travers, AGPCNP-BC CCRN PhD RN, Assistant Professor of Nursing, NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing.
See a video of the full hearing:
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