nursing homes

Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Mary Mayhew stands at a podium
Julio Ochoa / WUSF Public Media

State versus federal? Which data set nursing homes should rely on as a benchmark for coronavirus testing has been a pressing question for Florida facilities the past several weeks as they begin using rapid testing kits provided by the federal government.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which regulate nursing facilities, are lifting the ban on visitors, effective immediately. CMS imposed the restriction in March in an effort to control outbreaks of the coronavirus.

With coronavirus-related restrictions at long-term care facilities being eased, an industry leader is warning that without protections against civil liability there will be more legal cases and eventually an increase in insurance rates.

Florida Steps Back From Long-Term Care Policies

Sep 16, 2020
empty bed in a nursing home

Florida, which embarked on an aggressive strategy to limit the spread of COVID-19 in nursing homes and assisted living facilities, is stepping back from some efforts that Gov. Ron DeSantis has touted as keeping down the number of deaths and serious illnesses among seniors.

In recent days, the DeSantis administration has announced it is eliminating state-supported every-other-week testing of workers in long-term care facilities and that it is shuttering 23 nursing facilities dedicated to residents who are battling the coronavirus and cannot be properly isolated in facilities where they normally live.

COVID-19 Forces Changes In Health Facility Inspections

Sep 8, 2020
Hush Naidoo / Unsplash

How do you inspect a nursing home or a hospital in the middle of a pandemic, or discipline a physician or a nurse?

As COVID-19 has spread, the organizations and regulators responsible for ensuring the safety of health-care facilities and providers have run into a conundrum when travel and face-to-face encounters have been nixed.

Seema Verma stands for photo
Stephanie Colombini / Health News Florida

The federal government is continuing to deploy rapid coronavirus testing machines to nursing homes around the country.

But providers say they're left to secure their own test kits after the initial supply runs out, which is posing problems.

Seema Verma turns head to talk during discussion
Marissa Moss Photography / BayCare

Some nursing home administrators in Florida say they're struggling to meet the federal government's requirement to test staff weekly in hotspot areas for COVID-19.

They voiced concerns about government regulations, staff burnout and other challenges to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma during a meeting in Clearwater on Thursday.

After months of isolation and lockdown, Florida residents can now visit their loved ones in extended-care and senior facilities.

Elder hands clasped
Flickr Creative Commons

Florida’s long-term care industry and a top state regulator are befuddled by what appears to be competing state and federal regulatory requirements for conducting coronavirus tests of visitors and staff at long-term care facilities.

The issue involves whether a rule published by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services conflicts with three state emergency rules and a new executive order lifting a moratorium on visitation at nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

On this Wednesday, Sept. 2, episode of Sundial:

Joan Hipler has been using Facetime to communicate with her mother every day. Hipler is a registered nurse and she used to visit her mother at the Five Star Premier Residences of Hollywood before the coronavirus pandemic struck.

diame mcmillen makes heart sign with hand toward her mom
Diane McMillen

Some families have been able to see their loved ones in nursing homes and assisted living facilities face-to-face for the first time in months, now that the state has approved recommendations to resume visitation.

Some long-term care facilities in Florida will be able to open their doors for visitors as soon as Wednesday, September 2, in Florida. 

On Father’s Day this past June, Davonne Irion’s dad, John Marsh, was admitted to a hospital from his nursing home in St. Petersburg.

Irion, who lives in Clearwater, called the hospital to get his diagnosis. The woman who took her call asked her to wait a moment.

"It seemed like forever," Irion recalled. "She came back on the phone and said your father's tested positive."

Her father had tested positive for COVID-19.

Five Takeaways On Nursing Home Visitations

Aug 30, 2020
task force video conference screen
The Florida Channel

A ban on visitation at Florida’s 4,000 long-term care facilities expires in early September, and Gov. Ron DeSantis is poised to reopen doors to residents’ family members and friends who have been unable to visit because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

DeSantis will consider recommendations finalized Wednesday by the Task Force on the Safe and Limited Re-Opening of Long Term Care Facilities.

nursing home bed and resident's walker

As the state battles the spread of COVID-19 in institutional care settings, six long-term care providers submitted certificate of need applications to build additional facilities in Florida.

State health care regulators announced this week that five of the applications have been accepted.

Task Force Delivers Blueprint For Nursing Home Visits

Aug 27, 2020
task force video conference screen
The Florida Channel

Florida should allow the resumption of face-to-face visits in nursing homes --- and let certain visitors touch residents --- under recommendations approved Wednesday by a task force and sent to Gov. Ron DeSantis.

The recommendations, adopted by the Task Force on the Safe and Limited Re-Opening of Long Term Care Facilities, still must be approved by DeSantis, who has been looking for ways to reopen facilities to visitors during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Debate Over Touching Stalls Nursing Home Recommendations

Aug 26, 2020
Image of Zoom meeting of nursing home task force
The Florida Channel

A task force set up by Gov. Ron DeSantis reached broad agreement Tuesday on a plan that would reopen nursing homes to “essential” and “compassionate” caregivers, as well as allow visitation by members of the general public at many of the state’s 4,000 long-term care facilities.

But a divide remains over a return to normalcy.

Rapid COVID Tests Heading To Nursing Homes, But There’s A Hitch

Aug 25, 2020
Becton, Dickinson and Co. / PR Newswire

The Trump administration’s latest effort to use COVID-19 rapid tests — touted by one senior official as a “turning point” in arresting the coronavirus’s spread within nursing homes — is running into roadblocks likely to limit how widely they’ll be used.

task force video conference screen
The Florida Channel

Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Mary Mayhew said Wednesday she hopes a task force will be able to finalize recommendations next week on how to reopen long-term care facilities to visitors.

Mayhew told members of the Task Force on the Safe and Limited Re-Opening of Long Term Care Facilities that her agency, which regulates most long-term care facilities, will be prepared to quickly implement whatever changes Gov. Ron DeSantis makes after receiving the task force’s report.

Nursing Home Task Force Hones Recommendations On Visits

Aug 19, 2020
The Florida Channel

It’s unlikely that Florida will mandate all nursing homes reopen to all visitors any time soon.

Instead, a panel appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis discussed draft recommendations Tuesday to “strongly encourage access” and to “limit barriers to visitation” for two groups: “essential caregivers” and “compassionate visitors.” The recommendations also include that those visitors be tested for COVID-19, consistent with facility testing policies for staff members.

nursing home residents outside in wheelchairs
Associated Press

A new report says COVID-19 cases in U.S. nursing homes jumped nearly 80% earlier this summer, driven by rampant spread across the South and much of the West.

Mary Daniel washing dishes at memory care facility
Mary Daniel

Florida’s new long-term care ombudsman does not serve on a panel appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis to discuss reopening nursing homes to visitors amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Brian Lee, executive director of the advocacy group Families for Better Care, sent a letter Monday to state Department of Elder Affairs Secretary Richard Prudom asking that Prudom use his influence to have long-term care ombudsman Michael Phillips appointed to the Task Force on the Safe and Limited Re-Opening of Long-Term Care Facilities. Lee also sent a letter to DeSantis last week asking that he appoint Phillips to the panel but has not heard back from the governor’s office.

Top health care regulators in Gov. Ron DeSantis’s administration on Friday discussed a limited reopening of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities that would not require COVID-19 screening for visitors.

family member holding older person's hands

Saying that there have been “multiple instances" where long-term care providers have barred state health officials from entering facilities, Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration Monday issued a pair of emergency rules making clear access isn’t optional.

Gov. Ron DeSantis Friday announced the formation of a new task force focused on the safe and limited reopening of long-term care facilities in Florida. 

He says the panel will develop guidelines on how to safely allow family members to visit their loved ones in Florida’s long-term care facilities ,where visitation has been prohibited since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nursing Homes To Get Rapid COVID-19 Tests

Aug 8, 2020

Nearly 70 percent of the state’s nursing homes will receive rapid test kits from the federal government in the coming weeks after being identified by regulators as having increased risks for COVID-19 infections.

President Donald Trump’s administration announced last month that it would send “point of care” COVID-19 test kits to nursing homes in viral hotspots and to facilities the federal government considered to be at an elevated risk for COVID-19 outbreaks.

After nearly five months, families are demanding the state allow some form of in-person visitation in Florida nursing homes and assisted living facilities. But their push comes as the state continues to be a coronavirus hotspot, with long-term care residents most at-risk. Officials are looking for a solution.

Officials in Florida say cases of the coronavirus are continuing to decline, an indication that efforts to halt the spread of the disease are working. In Miami-Dade County, Mayor Carlos Gimenez told commissioners Tuesday, "I am pleased to announce it appears we have leveled off."

In some nursing homes, 100% of the residents are positive for the coronavirus. That's by design. These facilities have volunteered to devote part or all of their buildings exclusively to treating COVID-19 patients, who bring in more government money. But to make room for them, the original residents can be forced out of the places they've called home.

COVID-19 Numbers Now Spiking Inside Tamarac Nursing Home

Jul 31, 2020

Older COVID-positive patients who live in nursing homes or long-term care facilities are being sent to Florida nursing homes after a hospital discharge to recover. They need to test negative twice before they can return to their residences.

These so-called isolation centers, though, already have COVID-19 outbreaks among permanent residents.

One of these — Tamarac Rehabilitation and Health Care Center, had six COVID-19 patients when we previously reported about the center. As of July 28, it has at least 41.