Federal data provides partial glimpse into COVID-19's nursing home impact

Tom Lappas

Henrico residents are getting their first detailed look at the impact of COVID-19 in the county’s nursing homes – at least in part.

Federal government officials June 4 released their first compilation of data about how the virus is affecting nursing homes nationally, but in Henrico (as elsewhere) it paints an incomplete picture, at best.

That’s the result of several factors.

First, the data – which includes documentation of how many residents and staff members have tested positive for the virus or died from it, among many other metrics – only is required from nursing homes that accept Medicaid or Medicare-based residents. Those facilities number about 15,300 nationwide and fall under the umbrella of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which is compiling the information each facility submits to the Centers for Disease Control. CMS announced April 19 that it would begin requiring the data in May.

But only 13 of Henrico’s 40 or so long-term care facilities fit that criteria.

Second, qualifying facilities are required only to provide virus-related data from early May forward; some may choose to report data from earlier, but doing so is optional, according to CMS guidelines. In Central Virginia, the pandemic began in mid-March, so 45 days or so of important data may not be included. (For example, Canterbury Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center – which has witnessed the deaths of 51 residents from the virus – reported only two deaths in the CMS report, presumably the only ones that have occurred since early May.)

Third, CMS officials have acknowledged that the data is likely to contain a number of errors – either because facilities reported information incorrectly or because CMS officials didn’t have sufficient time to ensure its accuracy before publishing the data earlier this week.

For example, one Arlington, Virginia nursing home is shown as having had 83 virus-related deaths, when it fact, it has had none, a representative of the center told the website InsideNova.com. The data also shows that a New Jersey nursing home with fewer than 100 beds has had 756 virus-related deaths; that’s also wrong (the actual number, according to news service InvestigateTV, is 16).

According to the CMS, “in an effort to be transparent, CMS made the data collected by the CDC [Centers for Disease Control] public as quickly as possible balancing transparency and speed against the potential of initial data errors.”

Effectively, the agency provided the data as fast as it could at the potential expense of doing so with errors.


Beth Sholom hit hard by virus
Of the 13 Henrico nursing homes required to report data to the CDC, 11 have done so, while two – Elizabeth Crump Health and Rehab and Little Sisters of the Poor – have not, according to the CMS. (The CMS is providing an initial reporting grace period for facilities but then will fine them $1,000 per week or more for each week they fail to report their data.)

Beth Sholom Home of Virginia, on John Rolfe Parkway in the Far West End, reported the highest numbers of COVID-19 cases (52) and deaths (13) of the remaining 11 facilities.

Glenburnie Rehabilitation and Nursing Center on Libbie Avenue reported eight total deaths and 34 total cases among residents, while Westport Rehabilitation and Nursing Center on Forest Avenue reported 6 deaths and 29 cases.

Henrico Health and Rehabilitation Center on North Airport Drive in Highland Springs reported 36 cases but no deaths, and in addition to the 2 of its 51 deaths Canterbury Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center reported, it also noted 32 cases of the virus among residents.

The other 6 facilities that reported data – Lakewood Manor, Manorcare Health Services of Richmond, Our Lady of Hope Health Center, Parham Health Care and Rehabilitation Center and The Laurels of University Park – reported no deaths and only nine combined cases.

The data does not indicate the period for which each facility is reporting data, however, so it’s unclear which facilities (if any) are reporting the entirety of their virus-related experiences and which are reporting only data from early May forward.

All 13 facilities reported that residents have access to tests on site. Four – Henrico Health and Rehab (24), Beth Sholom (18), Lakewood Manor (10) and Glenburnie Rehab and Nursing (10) reported at least 10 staff members had tested positive for the virus.


Glenburnie: No supply of common PPE, according to data
According to the data, Glenburnie officials reported having no supply of any of the most common forms of PPE: N95 masks (which are considered the most effective at preventing the virus from being transmitted to or from a person wearing one), gloves, gowns, hand sanitizer or protective eyewear.

All of the 12 other facilities reported having at least some of each set of supplies, although Canterbury Health and Rehab reported less than a one-week supply of N95 masks and less than a week’s supply of surgical masks, too.

Henrico Health and Rehab, Westport Rehab and The Laurels at University Park each reported a shortage of nursing staff members.

The CMS statistics show that nearly 32,000 deaths have occurred in the CMS-regulated nursing homes – just about one-third of all deaths nationwide. It’s unknown how many of the other deaths occurred in other long-term care facilities that are not subject to the CMS reporting requirements.

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Tom Lappas

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