The Long Term Care Industry: The Ice Under The COVID 19 Waterline

April 28th, 2020 by Tom Lynch

A sneak attack no one saw coming

The nation has come to realize that Long-Term Care Facilities (LTCF) are the number one breeding ground for COVID 19. To date, the best guess is that about 30% of all deaths from the disease happen in the LTCF world. But, as USA Today discovered when its journalists tried to quantify actual numbers, no one knows for sure. The absence of any coordinated, centralized, and focused effort (by the CDC, perhaps?) to track this data is another in a long list of unfortunate and tragic failures we can lay at the doorstep of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Some states, for example, Indiana, (where 31% of all COVID 19 deaths have occurred in LTCFs,) and Massachusetts (56%), have begun to try to gather the relevant data and publish it on their COVID 19 dashboards. However, most states have yet to take this step. Massachusetts has gone so far as to list the total of the COVID 19 cases in each of the state’s LTCFs by name – the list runs to five pages, 60 facilities per page.

The story of one such facility in Massachusetts is particularly sad. The Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke labels itself as “a state-funded, fully accredited health care facility that offers veterans quality health care, hospice care, including full-time residential accommodations, an on-site dental clinic, Veterans (sic) assistance center, and a multi-service outpatient department.” The Soldiers Home has always been held in high esteem for its excellent and compassionate care of military veterans. It has been one of God’s finer waiting rooms.

But in late March COVID 19 struck, and it struck hard. Here’s how the Boston Globe described it today:

In late March, when the first resident of the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke died from the coronavirus, 226 residents lived at the elder care facility. Just over a month later, nearly 30 percent of them have died in one of the nation’s deadliest outbreaks, and another 83 have tested positive.

With 67 deaths linked to the coronavirus, the facility has a greater reported death toll than any other nursing home in New England, New York or New Jersey, or the long-term care facility in Kirkland, Wash., the initial epicenter of the US outbreak, according to a Globe review of cases.

The impact of this disease will be with us for a long time. The wounds to the nation’s physical and mental health will not heal anytime soon. As we flatten the Coronavirus curve, it is tempting to conclude we are at the beginning of the end. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is merely the beginning of the end of the beginning.

Tomorrow, a look at the least compensated people in our healthcare system, the myriad essential workers who care for the nation’s elderly and disabled.