Articles Posted in Nursing Care

baltsunjerryjackson-300x222In the spring of 2020, health workers were serenaded, cheered, and greeted as courageous heroes for their 24/7 commitment to battling the frightening, new coronavirus pandemic.

People — especially New Yorkers with their nightly eruptions — could not contain their admiration and gratitude for medicine’s marvels, with spontaneous and sustained demonstrations breaking out, as one news story reported, “from the Chinese epicenter of Wuhan to the medieval villages of Lombardy, from Milan to Madrid, onto Paris, and now London. There have been standing ovations, too, in Istanbul, Atlanta, Buenos Aires, and Tamil Nadu, India.”

Much has changed in the months since, of course, with the public’s health having become politicized and polarized, including with wild falsehoods and disinformation campaigns.

canursestaffingprotest-300x149The U.S. health care system and all who rely on it may be reaching painful reckonings on how the coronavirus pandemic keeps affecting caregiving personnel, whether with highly trained nurses who are forcing hospitals to pay them more or see them leave or with poorly paid and ill-trained aides who still aren’t getting Covid-19 shots to protect themselves and their vulnerable patients.

Great doctors, of course, may be vital to patients’ positive outcomes. But ask anyone knowledgeable how hospitals succeed — or don’t — and they will point to nurses. And that’s a professional treasure that has been battered by the pandemic,  Kaiser Health News service reported in partnership with NPR and WPLN radio in Nashville, Tenn.

Broadcast news reporter Blake Farmer found in Tennessee and nationally that hospitals are struggling to maintain their nursing ranks, particularly among their most seasoned and specially trained pros. They have spent grueling months giving patients the round-the-clock, intensive care demanded in serious cases, notably for coronavirus infections.

agedcare-300x200Nursing homes and other long-term care facilities keep bleeding staff, and their inability to hire and keep  workers poses significant risks to the well-being of aged, sick, and injured residents — a vulnerable group already savaged by the coronavirus pandemic.

The long-term care industry employed 3 million  personnel in July, which is 380,000 fewer staff than were on facilities payrolls in February 2020, the Wall Street Journal reported of federal labor statistics. Terry Robertson, chief executive of Josephine Caring Community, a long-term-care facility in Stanwood, Wash., told the newspaper this:

“I’ve been in the industry for 40 years and I’ve never seen it this bad.”

adjustedmay21covidcases-300x158Even as millions of us glide into a summer with high hopes of putting the pandemic behind us and returning to greater normality, huge public health challenges persist in quelling coronavirus infections, chief among them being — how the heck do we get the unwilling vaccinated now?

Just before the long Memorial Day holiday weekend launched, the head of the federal Centers for Disease Control warned that the nation has reached the difficult — and promising —  point where experts figuratively can see either a glass half empty or half full.

At least half of the nation’s population now is fully vaccinated, the agency reported, with 61% of adults (those 18+) having received at least one vaccine dose. Millions of parents are hurrying to ensure that those as young as 12 receive their coronavirus shots, as now not one but two vaccine makers have developed data showing products to be safe and effective for younger patients.

churninnhomes-300x300Churn may be a wonderful word when discussing fresh milk, heavy cream, and butter. But it can be a nightmare term for the too-common, rapid, and lethal turnover that occurs in health staff at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.

Personnel turnover left the aged, injured, and ailing residents at care centers, with an average annual health staff churn-rate of 128% and some facilities hitting as high as 300%, even more vulnerable during the coronavirus pandemic, a new study reported.

David Grabowski, a professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School and one of the study’s authors, told the New York Times of the information he and his colleagues gathered:

declinenhomedeathsnytfeb21-300x189Just as good news expands about vaccines and declining coronavirus cases and deaths in the nation’s nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, grim information also is developing on how the facilities’ ownership, particularly by wealthy investors, can be lethal to residents.

The positive effects of early efforts to get vulnerable long-term care residents and staff vaccinated can be seen in the accompanying graphic (courtesy of the New York Times). The newspaper reported this:

“Throughout the pandemic, there has been perhaps nowhere more dangerous than a nursing home. The coronavirus has raced through some 31,000 long-term care facilities in the United States, killing more than 163,000 residents and employees and accounting for more than a third of all virus deaths since the late spring. But for the first time since the American outbreak began roughly a year ago — at a nursing care center in Kirkland, Wash. — the threat inside nursing homes may have finally reached a turning point. Since the arrival of vaccines, which were prioritized to long-term care facilities starting in late December, new cases and deaths in nursing homes, a large subset of long-term care facilities, have fallen steeply, outpacing national declines, according to a New York Times analysis of federal data. The turnaround is an encouraging sign for vaccine effectiveness and offers an early glimpse at what may be in store for the rest of the country, as more and more people get vaccinated.

covidhospitalsnov-259x300As the winter of 2020-21 descends, the coronavirus pandemic is raging, unchecked, from coast-to-coast while the folks in control of the federal government sulk and seem to have checked out from their governing roles.

The numbers likely are understated.  But roughly 265,000 Americans have been killed by the Covid-19 virus and more than 13 million of us have been infected with it. Records are falling left and right, as reported cases skyrocket daily — from thousands, to tens of thousands, and now to more than 200,000 per day. The number of new cases in November alone jumped past 4 million, compared with the October record of 1.9 million.

A significant goal of public health battles with the coronavirus — to prevent the U.S. health system from getting overwhelmed with cases, slashing at all medical services and not just Covid-19 treatment — is under major threat. That’s because the nation is busting records on coronavirus hospitalizations, sitting at 90,000 patients and heading toward the fearsome number of 100,000.

With the pandemic  tearing through the United States and overwhelming U.S. health care system,  we pause from the grim news to tally  some of the nation’s blessings in this time.

We can be thankful for the courage, fortitude, dedication, and skill of an army of health workers of all kinds. They have put themselves and their loved ones at formidable risk and strain to treat patients under unprecedented duress. They have dealt with fear and uncertainty, giving little quarter, and approaching their own breaking points. Some health workers have themselves fallen ill, with some dying. Their sacrifices cannot be forgotten, and we need to give sustained and extra support to health workers as the pandemic enters its next perilous phase.

nhomehall-300x206Covid-19 infections and deaths are spiking anew in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, hitting worrisome levels not seen since months ago in the pandemic. The unchecked mess in centers nationwide, but especially in the South and West, is prompting more attention to them — from lobbyists boasting White House ties, health worker “strike teams,” and Big Pharma investigators.

But even as the nation’s top overseer of long-term care calls on institutions to step up their infection control and other coronavirus-fighting efforts, researchers say that 1 in 5 nursing homes and other long-term care facilities report they lack enough personal protective equipment and staff. This occurred as recently as in July — not just at the start of the pandemic.

Even as Seema Verma, the head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, told the owners and operators of care facilities that her agency has “deep concern … that even in nursing homes that are doing testing on a regular basis, we are still seeing significant spread,” experts from Harvard and the University of Rochester published findings on nursing homes in a health care policy journal, concluding:

covidSEvetcenter-300x200To paraphrase the late, great writer and activist Maya Angelou, nursing homes and other long-term care facilities are showing the public in the middle of this pandemic just truly what they are.

It is hard to believe, still, the shabby way they are treating the aged, sick, and injured. Just consider this sampling of recent news reports:

“Care” facilities — including centers dealing with veterans — have been too willing to subject residents to risky medical experimentation to fight the novel coronavirus, including what appear to be  inappropriate treatments with a much-promoted anti-malarial drug. This echoes a situation involving nursing home residents in Galveston, Texas,  and their facility’s dosing them with hydroxychlorquine without their loved ones’ knowledge and iffy circumstances about their individual capacity to consent to receiving the drug. As the Washington Post reported of a Philadelphia area veterans’ facility (shown in federal photo above):

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