Volume 8 | May 2020
LeadingAge Ohio is pleased to share with you our legislative newsletter - The Aging Advocate . This monthly publication is designed to communicate what's going on in the world of aging and give you a peek at LeadingAge Ohio's 400+ members around the state. 

Please continue to support frontline healthcare workers during this time as they work to keep everyone safe.
What's Inside?
  • Ohio National Guard testing
  • LeadingAge Ohio members to testify in committee
  • What is an infection preventionist?
  • CMS re-opening guidelines
  • COVID infections do not equal poor care, race is a factor
  • Dispatch column
  • And more!
Aging Happenings
Ohio National Guard begins testing in Ohio nursing homes
As announced by Governor Mike DeWine last week and continued this week, the state has begun mandatory COVID-19 testing of staff in nursing facilities around the state. Newly-formed Congregate Care Unified Response Teams, which include National Guard members and medical professionals, have begun a statewide testing campaign in nursing homes which have at least one positive resident and/or staff. The effort will begin with those facilities most severely affected and centers that volunteer to participate.

Testing will be conducted in facilities where residents or workers have confirmed or assumed positive cases. Testing will be conducted on all staff, and the testing of residents will be based on a clinically-driven strategy that targets those who have likely been exposed to COVID-19. At this time, the testing will be rolled out for nursing homes only.

LeadingAge Ohio President/CEO Kathryn Brod spoke to Columbus Business First on the plan:

"We would likely have chosen different timing and methods for meeting both needs, but we appreciate the state stepping up to the plate.

Broader testing may unleash a lot of information that will continue to keep long-term care providers in the headlines," she said. "Testing results coupled with ongoing diligence in infection control – to protect both staff and residents – will remain the critical work of our state’s congregate care facilities.”

These tests follow months of repeated asks by LeadingAge Ohio to give long-term care providers increased access to testing and PPE. The state has acknowledged the need to come alongside facilities that run into staffing and PPE shortages as a result of positive identifications.
LeadingAge Ohio members to testify in House Aging & Long-term Care Committee tomorrow
On Thursday, May 28, the House Aging & Long-term Care Committee will hear informal comments on how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted Ohio’s nursing home and long-term care facilities. During the hearing, LeadingAge Ohio members Mike Ray of Green Hills Community in West Liberty and Judy Budi of Graceworks Lutheran Services in Dayton will share their firsthand experiences and challenges.

LeadingAge Ohio President/CEO Kathryn Brod will also share how LeadingAge Ohio members in central Ohio stood up a program that brought timely testing to long-term care facilities within weeks of the first cases being detected in Ohio long-term care facilities.

The hearing will begin at 3:00 p.m. or immediately after session, and will be livestreamed via the Ohio Channel.
What is an infection preventionist?
For long-term care providers serving vulnerable residents, infection control is absolutely critical - during a pandemic and every other day. Each facility in Ohio must designate one or more individuals responsible for the infection prevention and control program, known as the Infection Preventionist. 

This individual must: have primary professional training in nursing, medical technology, microbiology, epidemiology or related field; be qualified by education, training, experience or certification; work at least part time at the facility; and have completed specialized training in infection prevention and control.

Experts agree that there are very few viruses more contagious than SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes COVID-19. The Journal of Emerging Infectious Diseases has called the virus twice as infectious as the 1918 Spanish Flu. Ohio must continue to support all healthcare workers serving in long-term care facilities, who will continue to battle this deadly virus for the forseeable future until a vaccine or other solution is able to contain the virus.
Ohio does not have enough tests to follow CMS re-opening guidelines
Last week, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued guidance on nursing homes' re-opening procedures. CMS is the federal entity which regulates nursing home operations.

CMS and the Trump Administration issued detailed guidance for re-opening nursing homes, which includes adequate staffing, baseline testing of all residents, weekly testing of all staff, and access to adequate personal protective equipment (PPE).

Per Governor DeWine, this approach is impossible in Ohio, particularly the requirement to test all nursing home residents. There are simply not enough tests. The Governor is instead opting to use the Ohio National Guard to test all nursing home staff. Residents are assessed case by case based on exposure to COVID-19 and other factors.

In addition, the issue of PPE availability is still a problem for many long-term care providers. Adding to this challenge is the fact that now long-term care providers are competing with businesses like salons and restaurants for access to the needed equipment. Staffing issues were prevalent in long-term care long before COVID-19 came to Ohio, as has been widely studied by LeadingAge Ohio.

We hope the DeWine Administration can continue to proceed thoughtfully throughout the re-opening process.

COVID infections do not equal poor care, race is a factor
As discussed in last month's issue, experts have found no connection between COVID-19 infections and a long-term care facility's five-star rating on Nursing Home Compare, which the federal government uses to score nursing homes based on quality measures, infection control, and other factors.

However, R. Tamara Konetzka, a professor at the University of Chicago’s Department of Public Health Sciences, did find correlations between race and the rate of COVID-19 infections and deaths in long-term care, as reported by Skilled Nursing News this past week.

“Consistent with the pandemic generally, nursing homes with traditionally underserved, non-white populations are bearing the worst outcomes," stated Konetzka in the article. “Nursing homes with the lowest percent [of] white residents were more than twice as likely to have cases or deaths as those with the highest percent [of] white residents.”

We hope to see the General Assembly and the DeWine Administration's Minority Health Strike Force make this a priority as COVID responses continue to evolve.
"We cannot afford to sit on our heels and wait, and when COVID-19 came to our doorsteps, we sprang into action."
This month, LeadingAge Ohio's President/CEO Kathryn Brod was featured in a Columbus Dispatch column that discussed LeadingAge Ohio member-led testing solutions for long-term care.

The column discusses in detail the partnership of LeadingAge Ohio with members National Church Residences and Ohio Living, with support from Central Ohio Geriatrics and the Columbus Foundation, to develop the Post-acute Regional Rapid Testing (PARRT) program. PARRT helped lay the groundwork for increased COVID-19 testing in long-term care across the state.
About LeadingAge Ohio
Founded in 1937, LeadingAge Ohio is a nonprofit trade association that represents over 400 long-term care organizations and hospices, as well as those providing ancillary health care and housing services, in more than 150 Ohio towns and cities. The continuum of care reflected by the member organizations serve an estimated 400,000 elderly Ohioans daily and employ more than 35,000 persons statewide.

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