The leader of the nation’s second largest nursing home association challenged providers to be “catalysts of change” for the long-term care sector as it works to move past the coronavirus public health crisis.
“Every flaw and crack in our system has been exposed. The fractures are too great to [just] patch back together,” said Katie Smith Sloan, LeadingAge president and CEO.
“While we clearly need to remain focused on today’s crisis, now is the time to consider what we may be. We need imagination now more than ever. We don’t have 20/20 vision looking deep into the future. There are just too many factors to be an oracle, but we do know this: we are not going back to where we were,” she added.
Sloan’s comments came during a keynote address during the organization’s annual Meeting & Expo Thursday afternoon. She noted that 2020 has been a radical year for all, but instead of canceling it, the industry could take the opportunity to band together and push for a better future post-crisis.
“We need to be the driving force for dramatic changes at the federal, state, local and even community levels. Our new job is to be catalysts for change,” she said.
Systemwide reform needed
That future could include developing a better system to pay for long-term services and supports in a fair and rational way, setting reimbursement rates that cover basic needs, ensuring industry workforce are adequately paid and that seniors have access to services that fit their needs. She also encouraged providers to share their dreams and visions they want for the sector.
“Our progress must be measured in actions taken, policies changed and lives lived,” Sloan said. “Our objective is deep systems reform and we must be the ones to define success.”
During times of crisis, she noted that she leans on words from Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Martin Luther King Jr., whose leadership helped guide the country to better futures following periods of crises. She said she wasn’t prepared for the “global war” for personal protective equipment, accessible testing and relief funding.
“This is our time to think about what comes next,” Sloan said. “This global war against COVID-19 will also end someday in the not-too-distant future. When that day comes, let Lincoln’s words be our guide: Finish the work. Bind up the wounds.”
“I believe this is our opportunity. We’re each leaders in a crucial sector of our economy and country. It’s up to us to turn a more unified vision moving forward. We must ask ourselves, ‘What is the system we want to create?’” she added. “We’re writing a new playbook.”