Providers are warning against efforts that call on nursing homes to accept all discharged hospital patients, regardless of their COVID-19 status, as a means to increase acute-care bed capacity.

New York has mandated such a policy to enhance “surge capacity,” and other state may be preparing to follow suit, post-acute providers fear.

“This is a short-term and short-sighted solution that will only add to the surge in COVID-19 patients that require hospital care,” the Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care and the American Health Care Association said in a joint statement Saturday urging states to not adopt legislation that supports the practice.

Instead, providers are asking that states and policymakers work collaboratively with nursing homes and hospitals to develop appropriate solutions to overcrowding amid the pandemic.

Just more than half of seniors who recently tested positive for COVID-19 showed no symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The agency said those patients, therefore, were likely spreading the virus for up to a week before symptoms appeared. Thus, the loud opposition to forced hospital transfers.

“This approach will introduce the highly contagious virus into more nursing homes. There will be more hospitalizations for nursing home residents who need ventilator care and ultimately, a higher number of deaths. Issuing such an order is a mistake and there is a better solution,” said ACHA President and CEO Mark Parkinson.

AMDA and AHCA leaders argued that forcing patients into nursing homes in order to increase hospital bed capacity could worsen effects of the pandemic.

They added that lawmakers must also consider facilities’ supply levels, staffing, infection control capabilities and their physical structure before transferring patients. 

Nursing home empties to become COVID-only facility

One nursing home operator recently made the decision to convert one of its Massachusetts nursing facilities into a dedicated coronavirus treatment center.

This falls along the lines of what the AMDA and AHCA partnership recommends: That hospital patients with COVID-19 should be admitted only into nursing facilities that have a cohort of residents with the disease or facilities that have a wing/unit that’s separate from other residents. They also noted that the transfer of a COVID-19 patient into a nursing home should happen only if the facility is adequately equipped to care for them. 

“States should take targeted action where hospitals are overwhelmed and move residents within a nursing home to create open wings or floors to accept admissions from hospitals. This will ensure hospital patients that are moved to a nursing home are kept separate from existing residents,” the statement reads.