An article published on May 4, 2020, in USA Today reports that the Federal Government is considering relaxing infection controls in US nursing homes. At issue is a regulation change being proposed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) that would modify the amount of time an infection preventionist must devote to each facility. The CMS says the new rule will reduce regulatory burden and improve infection control, but critics say the change, if implemented, will do precisely the opposite.
“It makes no sense at all – prior to pandemic, but more so now during a pandemic – to roll back any of the necessary infection and control requirements and the federal regulations,” said Lindsay Heckler, a supervising attorney at the Center for Elder Law & Justice in Buffalo, New York.
York Law Firm cannot agree more with Ms. Heckler. Already more than 16,000 long-term care residents and staff have died from the coronavirus pandemic, and nearly 100,000 have officially tested positive. The newly proposed rule change can only make things worse. Instead of yearly assessments of nursing homes, skilled nursing facilities would be assessed every other year. Moreover, the caps on two residents per room would be lifted. How can anyone remotely conceive that making such a change will reduce infections?
Of course, nursing home operators are lobbying hard for the change. “Sometimes regulation hinders us from putting resources where we know they need to be,” said Dr. Gregory Johnson, the chief medical officer of the largest non-profit provider of long-term care and senior services in the US. In our opinion, Dr. Johnson’s response misses the point. Nursing homes are already chronically understaffed and have inadequate infection control procedures. Giving them more slack is unlikely to fix those issues. If anything, a loosening of regulations will inevitably lead to more deaths and more blatant disregard of safety controls.
Let’s hope that our lawmakers in Washington don’t fall for this obvious ploy by the nursing home industry to get away with figurative and literal murder. If we let them cut more corners on nursing home patient care, we may as well start calling them death factories, not nursing homes, because people who go there will undoubtedly die a lot faster.
Attorney Wendy York of York Law Firm specializes in prosecuting elder abuse and wrongful death cases.