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Retirement homes in Pennsylvania are preparing for new outbreaks amid supply shortages



As the head of the Pennsylvania Department of Health warns of a second wave of the spread of the covid-19 community, nursing homes are preparing for a potential correlation wave of outbreaks and deaths in nursing homes.

Nursing home operators and staff are looking for more protective equipment, testing assistance and other assistance to ensure that subsequent outbreaks in long-term care facilities are not as deadly and frantic as they were in the spring and early summer.

About a quarter of nearly 700 homes for the elderly in Pennsylvania reported not having enough personal protective equipment during September, according to an analysis of federal data released last week by the senior law firm AARP. Staffing is a concern for 1

8% of institutions across the state.

Last week, Allegheny and Westmoreland counties reported the highest number of new cases of covid-19 since July. Pennsylvania’s health minister, Dr. Rachel Levin, said state data showed a “revival of the fall,” and experts could not predict when they would reach their peak.

“We definitely look after our long-term care facilities and nursing homes,” said Dr. Debra Bogen, Allegeni County Health Director. “As we have seen in the past, cases in nursing homes tend to lag behind the cases we see in communities. So, if we see an increase in the number of cases in communities, in a couple of weeks we will see an increase in the number of cases in nursing homes. ”

“No guarantees” in interfering covid

Approximately 66 deaths per 1,000 inhabitants, the death rate in nursing homes ranks eighth in the country.

This is lower than in Massachusetts, New Jersey and Mississippi, but higher than in Texas, Arizona and Alabama, according to data published by the Centers for Health and Medical Services.

Institutions that have contained large-scale outbreaks in the spring remain vulnerable to the virus, as evidenced by several outbreaks in Western Pennsylvania.

Among them is one at Westmoreland, where more than a third of the population – at least 117 – have been tested for covid-19, and three residents have died since late September. Thirty-four workers became infected. In late September, officials called on the Pennsylvania National Guard to assist the Westmoreland County-run facility in conducting ongoing tests on residents and staff. The members of the guard left the estate last weekend after a two-week stay.

After months of reports of zero cases, the outbreak near the Kane County residential center in Scotland, Allegheny County, has risen to 150 residents and staff and 13 deaths. Kane Center Director Dennis Biondo said that as of Friday, 71 actively infected people had been isolated or quarantined. None of the other three centers in Kane County have any active residents, as the Glen Hazel site overcame an outbreak that killed 16 people by mid-May.

In places where most residents have contracted and recovered from covid-19, there are still risks to staff and new arrivals, and asymptomatic carriers working in nursing homes may pose a risk to their families and other people outside the workplace.

According to the state, the SeniorCare Presbyterian network – which operates facilities in 10 counties, including long-term care facilities in Oakmont and Washington – reported 33 cases of covid-19 out of nearly 600 residents. Lisa Fischetti, the network’s senior communications director, said nursing home operators were “cautiously optimistic” about moving to the next stage of the disease.

“We know there are no guarantees,” she said. “Despite all the precautions you can take, it’s a highly contagious virus.”

Across the United States, more than 28,000 nursing home residents tested positive for covid-19 infection, and 5,200 died between late August and September, “showing that the virus is still rampant in nursing homes,” the report said. , prepared by AARP with the Scripps Center at Miami University in Ohio.

Bill Sweeney, the AARP’s senior vice president for government, called the findings of the ongoing shortage of staff and supplies “deeply disappointing.”

“It’s a nationwide crisis, and no state is doing a good job,” Sweeney said. “Although the pandemic was unexpected for all of us, basic infection control had to continue in nursing homes for a long time.

“These are places where people are vulnerable to infection, whether it is cunning or something else, so for these institutions, there are still no basic PPE, even now with a deadly virus in the air, it is outrageous and unacceptable.”

The group helps institutions to obtain PPE

Bogen said the creation of a state working group responsible for monitoring nursing homes has helped institutions become better prepared than they were in the spring.

Among the state-funded efforts is the Regional Health Cooperation Program. The state has provided $ 175 million to several groups to help long-term care facilities in different parts of the state by purchasing materials, evaluating infection control programs, providing personal and virtual counseling, and a 24-hour hotline for nursing home operators seeking guidance. .

In the southwest and parts of northwestern Pennsylvania, UPMC Public Services is working on behalf of the group on behalf of UPMC, the Allegheny Health Network, the Jewish Health Foundation, and the West Pennsylvania Health Council. The group received $ 38.9 million from the state.

Program participant Emily Jaffe, geriatrician and medical director of the Allegheny Health Emergency Care Network and HM Home and Community Services, described the regional team as “the best healthcare collaboration I have seen in my career. ”.

Members of the regional group began working together on education and advocacy in early April. In early August, the company distributed the first sets of protective equipment and other materials.

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