Two U.S. lawmakers want the new Coronavirus Commission for Safety and Quality in Nursing Homes to include representatives from a state ombudsman program and address how facilities can access adequate personal protective equipment. 

Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) made the recommendations in a Monday letter to Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma. The nursing home panel was announced in late April and will be composed of leading industry experts, doctors and scientists, resident and patient advocates, family members, infection and prevention control specialists, and state and local authorities.

CMS Administrator Seema Verma

Though the lawmakers applauded the creation of the independent commission, they added that its recommendations on its objectives could help “further protect the health of older adults in nursing homes.” 

Other suggestions included having the commission encourage further data collection and reporting of long-term care residents and staff members to increase transparency, along with highlighting models for state-level pandemic response teams that focus on activities that affect long-term care residents.

They also suggested the panel help expedite the development of recommended practices on transitioning residents from nursing homes to other care settings and ensure that the health risks of seniors in nursing homes is considered in distribution plans for any future COVID-19 vaccines. 

Public behind nursing homes 

A recent study conducted by GS Strategy Group on behalf of the American Health Care Association reveals that the public is behind AHCA’s request for more funding and support for nursing homes. 

Among the takeaways: By a 3 to 1margin, voters say that nursing homes and assisted living communities need more money for PPE, staff and increased testing capabilities. 

Also, 72% of voters agree that a lack of government funding has had a negative impact on the quality of care that residents of these facilities are receiving. And, overwhelmingly, voters want the government to provide long-term care facilities with the same resources as hospitals. The study was conducted among 1,500 registered voters between May 6 to 9. 

“It’s been discouraging for many operators to be working as hard as they have been … to deal with the horrific challenges the virus creates and then feel a little bit left out. What this data clearly shows is the American public understands providers have been fighting a really tough fight and need more help,” AHCA President and CEO Mark Parkinson told McKnight’s

In other coronavirus-related news:

• The AARP is rejecting proposals that would grant immunity to nursing homes and other aging services providers from potential lawsuits stemming from bad outcomes during the coronavirus pandemic. In a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, the organization said “at this time of limited oversight and accountability, and horrific death tolls, Congress should not strip away the rights and protections of residents.”

“Nursing homes and other facilities should know they will continue to be held responsible for providing the required level of quality care. Legal accountability helps ensure facilities self-correct their behavior and address problems to improve care,” the group wrote. 

• Verma wrote an open letter to nursing home workers and management recounting various administrative moves the agency has made regarding nursing homes, some of them hailed and some of them deemed as too little too late by nursing home leaders. The full text can be seen here.

• In brighter news, a Georgia skilled nursing provider celebrated 92 of its residents recovering from COVID-19 with a series of parades, featuring families and community members, this week.