In an effort to secure needed testing and personal protective equipment, both major long-term care associations are urging providers to report all COVID-19-positive cases to state survey agencies and local health departments, along with residents, families and staff.

“We believe this information can help identify long-term care providers who are most in need of testing and PPE resources,” Mark Parkinson, CEO of the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living, said in a statement on Saturday.

Katie Smith Sloan, president and CEO of LeadingAge, the association of nonprofit providers, offered a similar message on Saturday. She stressed that “good data is more important than ever before in this pandemic.”

“With supplies of personal protective equipment and testing resources in extremely short supply nationwide, case numbers are a critical piece of information to help determine supply prioritization,” she added. “We fully expect that consistent reporting of cases will lead to adequate and timely access to PPE and testing.” 

Target PPE, testing

Parkinson urged the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to use the data, in collaboration with other federal agencies, to target PPE and testing resources that providers “desperately need.”

He added, “Without testing it will be hard to keep state and federal agencies apprised of how this virus is spreading and get the help facilities desperately need. Working together with state and federal governments and other partners, we agree that we need to do everything we can to minimize that risk. It’s clear that CMS shares our goal of containing the virus and limiting the spread as much as possible and this information can help in those efforts.”  

Parkinson has been adamant about speaking publicly about the impact of the PPE and testing shortage on nursing home staff and residents. Without proper PPE, caregivers are putting themselves at significant risk of contracting the virus. And without testing, facilities will have a difficult time fighting COVID-19’s spread.

“The really good news, though, is that we now have many examples of buildings able to keep COVID out or, more important, if they can find out early on that COVID’s in the building, they can isolate it,” he told CNN last week.

Beyond limiting the spread of the virus, testing will help hospitals offload non-COVID patients to nursing homes. Many medical and public policy experts believe that without widely available accurate testing equipment, it would be “inadvisable” for nursing homes to accept any hospital discharges.

Need to communicate to families

Both association heads also mentioned in their weekend statements the importance of communication about the disease with residents, staff and families. With facilities closed to visitors during the pandemic, many family members are concerned about how their family members are coping during this time.

The mother of a resident who died of the pandemic in a Seattle nursing home recently filed suit against the company that owns the facility, Life Care Centers of America, accusing the company of hiding facts about the outbreak before her mother died.