By Paul Hughes, Republican-American
HARTFORD — Gov. Ned Lamont is commissioning an independent review of how Connecticut nursing homes handled the coronavirus outbreak.
The Lamont administration is looking to hire an outside consultant no later than June 30 to review the preparations and response of the 215 nursing homes, said Josh Geballe, the governor’s chief operating officer. The contract will be advertised this week.
To date, there have been more than 2,500 coronavirus-associated deaths out of a nursing home population of approximately 22,160, and more than 8,500 laboratory-confirmed cases of coronavirus disease, according to the governor’s office.
More than 60% of 4,084 confirmed and probable COVID-19 deaths reported through Monday have been among residents of nursing homes.
Lamont and Geballe said the independent review is being done to help prepare for a possible second wave of COVID-19. They said it is necessary to analyze what occurred and what needs to be improved to ensure the quality and safety of nursing homes.
“We wanted to initiate this now as the situation has become more stable in our nursing homes,” Geballe said.
In addition to nursing homes, the outside consultant will also review the preparations and responses to assisted-living communities, he said.
Geballe said the findings of the independent review will be made public.
THE NURSING HOME INDUSTRY supported the independent review that Lamont announced on Monday.
The Connecticut Association of Health Care Facilities and the Connecticut Center for Assisted Living said it is essential to thoroughly evaluate the state’s response to the pandemic in a non-biased and inclusive way.
The new nursing home associations asked that the analysis examine the role of the changing guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the inadequate supply of personal protective equipment, and the delay in COVID-19 testing.
In addition, the industry groups said it must include consideration of the role of the COVID-19 recovery centers that nursing home operators and the Department of Public Health stood up, including how they could be used in a resurgence of the outbreak.
The announcement Monday said the independent consultant will work with stakeholders, including operators of long-term care facilities, the unions that represent the staff, patients, and health experts.
The governor’s office also said administration officials will collaborate with legislative leaders to develop the scope of the review.
THE LAMONT ADMINISTRATION continues to discuss how in-person visitation at nursing homes might be reintroduced, but appears no closer to issuing guidelines.
Geballe said the possibilities include outdoor visits between nursing home residents and loved ones, subject to social distancing and other precautions.
The Department of Public Health temporarily suspended visitation at nursing homes, residential care homes and chronic disease hospitals on March 13.
The directive only permits visits from family members, domestic partners or others designated by a patient when a health care facility’s medical director, a physician or advanced practice registered nurse has determined a patient to be at the end stage of life with death being imminent.
Geballe also reported Monday that testing of nursing home residents and staff continues. The governor issued an executive order last Monday mandating COVID-19 testing for the staff of all nursing homes, managed residential communities and assisted living facilities.
In addition, he said inspection teams from the Department of Public Health and the Connecticut National Guard are continuing to review and evaluate conditions at nursing homes.
THE LATEST STATISTICS reported Monday continued to show COVID-19 is spreading in the state at a slowed down pace.
There were an additional 124 positive cases. To date, there have been 42,017 laboratory-confirmed cases, and another 2,075 probable cases involving patients who have not been tested, but whose symptoms indicate they are infected.
Public health officials reported another 13 fatalities since Sunday. There have been 3,239 confirmed deaths of people who tested positive for COVID-19 around their deaths, and 845 probable deaths of untested patients whose death certificates list COVID-19 as a cause of death or a significant condition contributing to the death.
There were an additional 5,715 tests reported Monday. This brought the running total to 305,996 tests performed, but per CDC reporting requirements this figure includes multiple tests involving the same patient or patient specimen.
THE NAUGATUCK VALLEY HEALTH DISTRICT reported Monday there have been 369 cases in Naugatuck and 48 in Beacon Falls. The health district reported there have been 32 confirmed and three probable deaths associated with COVID-19 in Naugatuck and none in Beacon Falls.
As of Friday, the Chesprocott Health District reported there have been 64 cases in Prospect and no coronavirus-related deaths.
Elio Gugliotti contributed to this report.