BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - The Alabama Nursing Home Association says the group is opposed to the Jefferson County Department of Health’s letter telling nursing homes to accept transfers of COVID-19 positive patients from hospitals.
This is the letter:
Jefferson County Health Officer Dr. Mark Wilson is trying to prepare for the possibility that hospitals could run out of space for coronavirus patients.
In a letter released Tuesday, Wilson wrote he is endorsing guidelines developed by the CDC, and he wants nursing homes to take necessary steps to prepare to accept some coronavirus patients who are not fully recovered.
A spokesman for the Alabama Nursing Home Association says about 30,000 nursing home staff across the state are already working hard to keep the virus out of nursing homes housing almost 25,000 people. Josh Matson says to do what Dr. Wilson is talking about they’re going to need help.
Matson says those resources include personnel, protective gear and medicines that they simply don’t have at this point.
Alabama Nursing Home Association statement:
For the past month, Alabama nursing homes have been doing everything they can to prevent COVID-19 from entering their buildings. Now, Jefferson County Health Officer Dr. Mark Wilson wants nursing homes to accept patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 even though they still exhibit symptoms and have not fully recovered.
That decision goes against sound medical advice. Just last week, the American Medical Directors Association issued guidance stating that nursing homes should not admit a COVID-19 patient until the patient has two negative tests. Dr. Wilson’s decision places nursing home residents, those vulnerable to COVID-19, in great danger.
While the health officer is concerned about the capacity of local hospitals to meet the demands posed by the COVID-19 crisis, he does not cite a single example of a local hospital that is currently experiencing a capacity problem. Our nursing homes are being stretched to the breaking point and not one penny of the money allocated by the federal government to fight this virus has made its way to a nursing home. Our nursing homes need resources to prevent the spread of COVID-19, not orders from government officials to bring this horrible virus into the very place where our most vulnerable citizens live.
This is an updated statement from the Jefferson County Department of Health:
On 3/31/2020, the Jefferson County Department of Health (JCDH) issued a letter to the Long Term Care Facilities within Jefferson County. This letter was an endorsement, not a Public Health Order, of existing guidance issued from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In this guidance, the CDC outlines a non-test-based strategy for when a person can be considered not to be infectious due to COVID-19 when there is limited ability for a local area to perform COVID-19 testing.
The letter also stated that patients who do test positive can return to their facilities if the facility follows guidance issued from the CDC with regard to personal protective equipment and appropriate isolation to protect all residents at the facility. However, if this is not possible at a facility, that strategy would not be feasible, and there is no expectation that a facility should admit a COVID-19-postive patient if the facility does not have the appropriate equipment to care for the patient.
COVID-19 cases continue to increase, and the peak need for hospital beds is expected around the 3rd week of April, and the JCDH is working with our community partners to allow for as many hospital beds as possible to care for what will be a much greater than usual number of patients seeking medical care. We want to do everything possible to allow Jefferson County to be able to provide high-quality care to all who need it; ultimately, we do not want a hospital to have to turn away any patient because of a lack of hospital beds.
The JCDH works closely with local Long Term Care Facilities on a daily basis to address and investigate disease activity and mitigate risks to residents and staff. The situation and advice that we endorse remains fluid which means that appropriate changes could be made based on developing data and collaboration with ADPH and the CDC.