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Report: VA Nursing Homes Have U.S.' 2nd Highest Death Rate

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Thursday, March 18, 2021   

RICHMOND, Va. -- New COVID-19 infections and deaths are falling in Virginia nursing homes, but they're still twice as high as they were last summer according to a new analysis released by AARP Virginia.

Researchers looked at data from the four weeks ending Feb. 14 and found deaths in the Old Dominion state were the second highest in the nation.

David DeBiasi, associate state director for advocacy and outreach at AARP Virginia, who is also a registered nurse, said infection control can be compromised by short-staffing.

"If you're feeding someone, if you're dressing someone, it has to be slow," DeBiasi explained. "If you're bathing someone, it has to have that care and compassion that comes with time and presence. And if you're trying to rush around from room to room, there goes the health, well-being and safety of residents."

Virginia has no statewide mandatory minimum staffing levels for congregate-care facilities.

A bill to address the issue, Senate Bill 1149, never made it out of committee this past legislative season in the face of opposition from the nursing-home industry.

DeBiasi supports higher Medicaid reimbursements, so nursing homes can raise staff pay and attract and retain caregivers.

"AARP is asking to provide supplemental wages and benefits to staff during this emergency, to ensure that nursing home reimbursement rates increase, and that those increases are spent on staff pay and to improve protections for residents," DeBiasi remarked.

The report also showed one in seven nursing homes reported insufficient staffing levels and one in 10 reported a shortage of basic things such as masks, gowns and gloves during this time period studied.

Disclosure: AARP Virginia contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy and Priorities, Health Issues, Hunger/Food/Nutrition, and Senior Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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