Letter to the editor: AARP calls for mandatory tests in nursing homes

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To the editor:

AARP Iowa is outraged. Everyone should be.

A recent article from Capitol Dispatch reported an Iowa nursing home allowed employees with COVID-19 symptoms to continue working, potentially leading to 11 resident deaths and 95% of the residents testing positive for the coronavirus.

This is not the first report we’ve seen with high numbers of resident deaths, and tragically it will likely not be the last. This outrage should prompt immediate state action to direct nursing home and other long-term care (LTC) facilities to implement mandatory testing for COVID-19.

To date, 374 Iowa nursing home residents’ deaths are directly related to COVID-19, representing 54% of the total documented COVID-19-deaths in Iowa.

AARP Iowa calls for immediate, mandatory testing for staff and residents in all nursing home and long-term care facilities across the state.

Today, Iowa lacks clear requirements for mandatory testing. Even Iowa’s “Testing Guidance” under Appendix A of Iowa’s “Guidance on Phased Easing of Restrictions for Long-Term Care Facilities” is just guidance, with no clear-cut requirements. The lack of input from any consumer, resident or employee group in this non-requirement is apparent.

Specifically, AARP Iowa calls for:

  • Mandating testing based on most recent CDC and CMS guidelines.
  • Immediate testing of all remaining residents and staff after one documented positive case.
  • Requiring all nursing home and other long-term care facility staff to wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).

If funding and availability are issues for either testing or PPE, the public deserves to understand what, where and why. The public has a right to know where and how previously appropriated federal tax dollars, CARES Act funds and other dollars have been allocated and spent for Iowa’s LTC facilities. That includes how much, if any, has been spent to ensure adequate testing.

“The sad fate of so many vulnerable adults and staff in long-term care facilities is both heartbreaking and infuriating,” AARP Iowa State Director Brad Anderson said. “Setting up and implementing a comprehensive plan for testing of staff and residents is among the essential steps necessary to address the current COVID-19 crisis in nursing homes.”

More than 50,000 residents and staff of nursing homes and other LTC facilities nationwide have died from COVID-19, representing 40% of total deaths. These are mothers, fathers, grandparents and spouses — our families. But it still appears Iowa has not ensured adequate precautions are in place in our LTC facilities to stop this crisis and stem the loss of life.

Iowans deserve better.

Julie Betts, AARP Associate State Director for Communications
Des Moines

2 COMMENTS

  1. The Perry Lutheran Home has tested all residents and staff at the Spring Valley Campus. Not sure about the Willis Campus. I commend them for their diligence.

  2. The daughters of Zola Summerson donated 5 gallons of hand sanitizer to the Perry Lutheran Homes Spring Valley Campus to help with their fight against COVID-19. It was a small price to pay to help the family members and staff who live and work there.

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