House COVID-19 hearing will focus on nursing homes’ crisis, future

The plight of nursing home residents and staff during the COVID-19 pandemic will take the spotlight on Wednesday when experts testify before a House subcommittee on its devastating impact and make suggestions for better conditions in the future.

The event will be streamed live on YouTube and on the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus website.

The hearing is an opportunity to advocate for change to improve the lives of SNSF staff and residents, said witness Alice Bonner, PhD, RN, FAAN McKnight’s Long Term Care News Monday.

“Hopefully we have the opportunity to empower CNAs, empower nurses, lead care teams, and recognize the conditions in which people work,” said senior advisor on aging at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement and chair of the Moving Forward Nursing Home Quality Coalition .

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The hearing will remind the public of the more than 200,000 long-term care facility staff and residents who have died from the coronavirus since the pandemic began. Despite vaccines and treatments that have stemmed the brutal tide for everyone, SNF staff and residents are still at greater risk than others. Adding to concerns is that only 43% of staff and 57% of residents are up to date on their vaccines.

Systemic, personnel changes sought

Bonner will emphasize that the sector can avoid future staffing shortages by making the area more attractive to job applicants.

“The reimbursement issues, the compensation issue, but also how can we build a care model that better supports teams, that gets people going into this industry?” she said.

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“We need a mentoring model where when people are in high school or in class right after, they think, ‘This could be a career for me, not just a job,’ and we’re not there yet. This has to be a priority and I think we can do it, but we need Congress to look at that as something that they make a priority and work with us.”

David C. Grabowski, PhD, Professor of Health Policy, Harvard Medical School; Adelina Ramos, Certified Nursing Assistant and 1199NE member, of Greenville, RI; and Jasmine Travers, AGPCNP-BC CCRN PhD RN, Assistant Professor of Nursing, NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing, will join Bonner as testimonies before the subcommittee.

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Hitting an elusive target

Bonner said a quick search of the subcommittee members revealed some healthcare experience but nothing related to nursing homes.

“We want to pick them up where they are,” she said. “We can talk to them in any way we can. What do they already know and what questions will they ask us?

“We’re willing to talk to them about staffing shortages, turnover, reimbursement rates, ownership and transparency, and some of the legislation currently under discussion in Congress. What is really important to us is that we engage in an ongoing dialogue and that this is not a one-off conversation, but the first of many.”

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