Federal authorities need to stop the blame game and take more responsibility getting vital testing, protective equipment and other needed elements to nursing homes during the COVID-19 pandemic, a leading health policy expert believes.

That was the core message from federal health policy expert David Grabowski, Ph.D., in testimony before a House panel late last week.

Coordinated action by the federal government to ensure all U.S. nursing home providers have enough personal protective equipment and support for staff members is dramatically needed, said Grabowski, professor of healthcare policy, Department of Health Care Policy at Harvard Medical School.

“Nursing homes all over the country desperately need PPE, testing and support for the workforce. I believe the federal government is best positioned to provide those resources,” said Grabowski, also a commissioner for the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, to McKnight’s Long-Term Care News

“We need to stop blaming particular states or nursing homes and invest in protecting all our nursing home residents and staff,” he added. 

Grabowski was among several industry experts and workers to speak during the Thursday hearing held by the  Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis. He criticized a lack of investment in the industry by the government during the hearing, explaining that nursing homes have been “underfunded for years and struggled with staffing and other issues prior to COVID.”

Grabowski stressed the need for continuous, rapid and accurate testing for all residents and staff members in order to identify and respond to COVID-19 cases as they emerge. That type of effort needs to be led by federal authorities, he emphasized.

“Rather than pushing the logistics and costs of testing and PPE to states and nursing homes, the federal government needs to own this issue. The federal government should set a consistent policy across all U.S. nursing homes and then provide states and nursing homes with the resources to achieve it,” Grabowski told lawmakers. “If we have testing and PPE in place, we would be able to move safely towards opening nursing homes again to family members.”

Grabowski also called for higher reimbursement for nursing homes to help them maintain staffing levels, prevent layoffs and properly pay the direct care workforce risking their health and lives daily to care for residents. 

“The federal government needs to put dollars in place that flow directly to workers in terms of hazard pay and other benefits,” he added.