Katie Smith Sloan
Katie Smith Sloan

LeadingAge pushed back after President Trump said during a speech Tuesday that the federal government is providing needed resources to states for personal protective equipment.

“He suggested that our country’s 15,000 certified nursing homes are being provided the personal protective equipment (PPE) they need to protect vulnerable older Americans, but we know that’s not true,” Katie Smith Sloan, president and CEO of LeadingAge said in a  statement. “LeadingAge members have reported as recently as this morning that they have yet to receive the care packages FEMA promised several weeks ago. What’s more, some of the deliveries our members have received include useless items like cloth masks that are not CDC-recommended and are unfit for medical use. And, we know that FEMA does not even plan to finish these one-off deliveries until the end of June.”

In a Rose Garden speech, Trump said the federal government has provided states resources to step up inspections and for PPE. He also said the federal government issued strict new guidelines on testing. “We’re using every tool at our disposal to protect nursing homes from outbreaks,” he said, adding later, “We will not rest until [seniors] get the kind of care and support that they have earned and that they deserve.” 

‘Flawed survey system’

Meanwhile, the leader of the nation’s largest nursing home association said Sunday that the United States’ “flawed survey system” encourages surveyors to give providers deficiencies. His comments were in response to a recent federal report found that infection control problems at facilities were widespread before COVID-19. 

AHCA’s Mark Parkinson

Mark Parkinson, American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living, said during an interview with Fox News Sunday that the system creates the impression that even top providers are “not good.”

“It makes it hard for consumers to figure out what buildings are good and which aren’t when everybody gets deficiencies,” Parkinson said. 

The report by the Government Accountability Office recently found that  82% of all surveyed nursing homes were cited for having an infection prevention and control deficiency in one or more years between 2013 and 2017.

Parkinson noted that the report also revealed that nearly 99% of deficiencies were classified as not severe, meaning the surveyor found that residents were not harmed. 

“They did not affect patient safety and many of them were just paperwork issues,” he explained. 

The federal agency added that it plans to release future reports analyzing broad  infection prevention and control and emergency preparedness in nursing homes, and CMS’s response to the pandemic.

‘Adjusting our behavior’

Parkinson said coronavirus has violated all normal concepts of infection control because normal prevention methods are symptom-related. 

“Now that we know that, we are adjusting our behavior and that is why we are starting to see recovery and people actually getting better. Visitors are no longer allowed to come into buildings. Every interaction, patients and staff now have masks on,” Parkinson said. 

“Patients, residents are not eating together in the same room, they’re eating privately in their own rooms, so now that we understand the very vicious nature of the virus, we are able to control it much better,” he added. 

In the interview, Parkinson also discussed the amount of coronavirus-related fatalities in nursing homes, the importance of on-site testing for potentially reopening facilities and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s decision to no longer force providers to accept COVID-19 patients. 

“It was an error based on incomplete and inaccurate information,” Parkinson said of the original decision.