Image of male nurse pushing senior woman in a wheelchair in nursing facility

Although Connecticut’s governor is touting increased Medicaid payments for nursing homes, the leader of a state nursing home association says the “incredibly important step” by itself will not be enough to avoid calamity.

“Regrettably, the measures just don’t go nearly far enough,” said Matthew Barrett, president and CEO of the Connecticut Association of Health Care Facilities / Connecticut Center for Assisted Living in an email to McKnight’s Long-Term Care News. “We are heading for a public health disaster if significantly urgent and further increased funding isn’t addressed.” 

Connecticut had experienced nearly 7,000 COVID-19 infections and 206 deaths as of midday Monday, officials reported.

Barrett said industry rate-setting experts and CAHCF/CCAL staff worked with state Medicaid officials over the weekend to quantify “staggering new and immediate costs, with the staffing the area of most urgent concern.” He said his group is now pressing the state to issue a new support package.

On Friday, Gov. Ned Lamont (D) announced the state’s 213 nursing homes will receive a 10% Medicaid pay raise for April, May and June to help cover wages, overtime, staff retention, as well as other coronavirus-associated costs. Included will be related visitor screening, cleaning and personal protective equipment. 

The $35 million Medicaid package will pay $600 per day for COVID-19 patients in long-term care facilities, more than double the usual amount, officials said. 

The state’s aid package equates to $2 per hour per worker under one scenario set by Paul Liistro, the top exec and managing partner for three long-term care communities in the state. He added, however, that depending on the facility department, costs could rise by $5 or more per worker hour. Personal protective equipment is costing 10 to 20 times more than usual — if it’s even attainable, providers explained. 

Lamont said Friday that Connecticut was expected to need about 12,000 COVID-19 hospital beds and 4,000 ventilators during the peak of the coronavirus outbreak — 3,000 more machines than it had at the time. That was shortly after the governor released a proposed list of facilities that would move existing patients to create coronavirus-only units. He did so, however, before the involved facilities had formally agreed to the plan or had a chance to notify residents who would be moved. 

The governor pulled the online notice after a short time, but damage had been done. The scene is now set for a potentially grim next few weeks, or longer, stakeholders fear.

Models from Hartford HealthCare and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology project the peak of the coronavirus crisis will arrive in Connecticut around the final week of April, putting it behind other nearby states, according to local reports.

“There was a lot of talk about the critical week ahead and how we are prepared,” said Ajay Kumar, M.D., chief clinical officer at Hartford HealthCare. “I think we have several critical weeks ahead, not just one.