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New Rules for Nursing Homes COVID-19 Communication

Richmond City street
Nursing homes are now required to inform family within 12 hours of a confirmed case of COVID-19. (Photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM)

The majority of coronavirus outbreaks in Virginia continue to be reported at long-term care facilities, like nursing homes. As of Tuesday morning, 80 out of 148 outbreaks reported have been in these facilities.

Some facilities with confirmed cases, like Beth Sholom in Henrico County and the Virginia Home in Richmond, are posting regular updates on their website about cases and ongoing testing efforts.

“I send out an update to the families every three to four days on average,” said Bob Crouse, President and CEO of the Virginia Home. Crouse said staff have made a “big effort” to help family members connect directly with loved ones on video chat.

According to new federal guidance, the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services is now requiring nursing homes to keep residents and their family members informed about confirmed COVID-19 cases, as well as conditions inside facilities.

At a minimum, the guidance outlines that nursing homes must inform residents and their representatives within 12 hours of the occurrence of a single confirmed infection of COVID-19.

If three or more people develop symptoms, they must be notified within 72 hours and additional updates on facility conditions must be provided weekly.

Existing guidance from Virginia health officials doesn’t include recommendations about communication from nursing home facilities to family members or residents.

Virginia’s Medicaid director Karen Kimsey told VPM News last week that relatives are able to move family members out of nursing facilities without losing their Medicaid benefits. However, according to Kimsey’s office, individuals would lose their spot in the facility, unless they pay to hold it.

“We would want to make sure that as they do that, that they have the proper supports in place to help them with their loved one in their homes,” Kimsey said.

“Proper supports” like equipment and personal care services. Kimsey said families wishing to take loved ones home during the pandemic should contact their relative’s nursing home or managed care health plans.

According to the Virginia department of health, patients can be discharged if deemed “medically and socially appropriate”by local health officials. 

Megan Pauly reports on early childhood and higher education news in Virginia
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