Wisconsin Nursing Homes During the Pandemic

Mary Madison, RN, RAC-CT, CDP
Clinical Consultant – Briggs Healthcare

“In one of the most comprehensive looks at nursing home safety during the pandemic, a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel investigation has found that 1 in 3 Wisconsin facilities violated coronavirus protocols, including by asking COVID-positive staff to keep working, not screening visitors for symptoms and not isolating infected residents.

According to the Journal Sentinel review of hundreds of state and federal inspection reports from March 2020 to January 2021, officials cited 133 of Wisconsin’s 360 nursing homes for coronavirus-related violations, with some of them incurring multiple violations.

Two-thirds of the violations occurred in August or later, months into the pandemic, showing that even with more time and better access to masks and testing, some nursing homes still failed to take basic measures to prevent the spread of the virus.

The most common failure was incorrect use of masks, gowns and other personal protective equipment, found in over 70% of cited nursing homes. Nearly 30% of cited homes didn’t follow quarantine or isolation protocols for residents or staff, didn’t enforce social distancing or commingled COVID-19 positive and negative residents.”

“Throughout the pandemic, Wisconsin has regularly been among the worst states for staffing shortages, based on data submitted weekly by nursing homes to the federal government. Last November, roughly 1 in 3 Wisconsin nursing homes reported to federal regulators they were short-staffed. Even now, roughly 1 in 4 facilities are reporting shortages of nurses and aides.”

This investigative piece was posted on April 9, 2021.  It includes access to a “database to look up skilled nursing facilities that were cited for coronavirus-related deficiencies. You can see the severity of the deficiency (ranked A to L, from most minor to most severe) as well as the general type of deficiency, as categorized by Journal Sentinel reporters.”  The database includes the CMS-2567 reports detailing the deficiencies.

Not a pretty read but something that must be reviewed and examined so the industry is cognizant of mistakes made so they will not be repeated.  The ‘All the things you should do’ section towards the end of this piece provides some examples of care and mitigation done correctly.  We can and must all learn from such examples.  How did/is your facility doing with infection prevention and control during this PHE??