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Coronavirus relief funds for nursing homes dry up, raising fears for elderly, vulnerable

As drafts of a renewed coronavirus relief package continue to be debated in and around the White House, the many millions left languishing in nursing homes and elderly care facilities – along with their loved ones forced to communicate with them from afar – are urging swift action.

According to the American Health Care Association (AHCA), almost all the initial $175 billion U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) funds from the CARES Act – which was signed into law by President Trump in late March – has been spent, and yet coronavirus – officially termed COVID-19 – cases in at least 22 states continues to ascend, ahead of the already daunting cold and flu season.

“HHS has announced distribution plans for 80 percent of the $175 billion Provider Relief Fund created by the CARES Act. Health care providers, including nursing homes, will need additional resources to continue its response to the COVID pandemic heading into the cold and flu season, which provides new challenges,” Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL), told Fox News. “COVID-19 disproportionately impacts the elderly – many of whom already have preexisting health conditions and chronic diseases – and the dedicated staff who care for them.”

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The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) has thus requested an additional $100 billion from the HHS Provider Relief Fund, which is accessible for all health care providers impacted by the novel pathogen, and asked “that a sizeable portion of the fund be dedicated to helping nursing homes and assisted living communities to acquire resources associated with protecting vulnerable residents and staff from the virus, including constant testing, personal protective equipment (PPE) and staff support.”

Parkinson is urging Congress to provide the additional billions to protect the most susceptible. As of Friday, the notion of further stimulus and relief funding was still the topic of political fodder in Washington.

Parkinson emphasized that the PPE supply shortages and delays in obtaining test results in the first six months of the pandemic “put nursing homes at a serious disadvantage” in keeping COVID out of their facilities.

 “Funding from HHS has helped nursing homes pay for additional staffing, secure vital PPE equipment, and conduct regular testing of residents and staff in response to the COVID pandemic,” he lamented. “We need Congress to prioritize our vulnerable seniors and their caregivers in nursing homes and assisted living communities by passing another COVID-funding package before they leave town for the elections.”

Indeed, a prominent portion of coronavirus deaths have occurred in nursing homes and assisted living facilities nationwide – a chilling consequence of the disease, which is known to be especially lethal to adults over the age of 60, and with underlying health ailments. Furthermore, it can rapidly tear through converging, indoor dwellings and be passed on by workers who move from room and room.

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