CT Orders Study Of Coronavirus Response By Nursing Homes

Rich Kirby

CONNECTICUT — Gov. Ned Lamont announced on Monday that he is ordering an independent, third-party review to be conducted of the preparation and response to the COVID-19 pandemic inside of Connecticut's nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

The review will incorporate a "top-to-bottom analysis of all elements of the pandemic and how it was addressed in these facilities," according to a news release. The governor said he wants the analysis completed before the start of autumn in order to prepare for a potential second wave of the virus.

"Our state took proactive and innovative steps to address the outbreak in our long-term care facilities, but we must take steps to better understand how prepared the system was, and then review the steps that were taken once the virus was clearly present across the state," Lamont said. "As we prepare for the possibility of a second wave, we must be proactive in analyzing what occurred, what needs to be improved, and how we can ensure the quality and safety of facilities that some of our most vulnerable residents call home."

The state will soon solicit proposals from third-party experts to conduct the review. Before it begins, the administration plans to collaborate with legislative leaders to develop a scope that ensures the review provides the state with meaningful information that can best improve the safety of patients and staff in these facilities. The awarded independent expert will be directed to work widely across state government and include input from the legislative and executive branches, as well as key stakeholders, such as the operators of long-term care facilities, the unions that represent the staff who work in these facilities, patients, health experts, and others.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a severe impact on all elements of Connecticut’s health care infrastructure, but no sector had more direct and tragic consequences than the nursing homes and assisted living facilities. To date, Connecticut’s nursing homes have experienced over 2,500 resident deaths and more than 8,500 cases in a population of just over 21,000. More than 60 percent of total deaths in Connecticut have been among residents of nursing homes.

In May and June, Connecticut facilitated testing of every nursing home resident who had not previously tested positive. Lamont also signed an executive order requiring the staff at all nursing homes, managed residential communities, and assisted living facilities to be tested for COVID-19 every week for the duration of the public health and civil preparedness emergency.

"We must take this opportunity to learn from the pandemic and the experience of our nursing homes to ensure we are using the best available science and quality improvement techniques to protect these residents,” Dr. Deidre Gifford, acting commissioner of the Department of Public Health, said. "We must study the epidemiology, protocols, staffing, and overall preparedness of all our facilities to provide clarity and understanding of what happened over the course of this pandemic."

Connecticut’s two nursing home associations support Lamont’s call for the comprehensive analysis of the state's COVID-19 response, according to a statement released by Mag Morelli, president of LeadingAge Connecticut and Matt Barrett, president and CEO the Connecticut Association of Health Care Facilities and the Connecticut Center for Assisted Living.

"It is essential that we thoroughly evaluate our state's response in a non-biased and inclusive way so as to learn from the science and help to prepare for a potential second wave of the virus," the statement said.

The solicitation of proposals for an outside expert to conduct the review will be released in the next several days, state officials said.

This article originally appeared on the Across Connecticut Patch