As COVID-19 cases spike across the country, states are taking varying approaches to help senior living providers deal with staffing shortages.
New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu has reactivated a $300 per week stipend through the end of the year for frontline healthcare workers at assisted living communities and other long-term care settings that care for residents who are Medicaid beneficiaries.
The state’s Long Term Care Stabilization Program, first introduced in April, encourages workers — including those in direct care, food service, maintenance or other work that is vital for resident/patient care but cannot be done remotely — to stay on the job amid increasing COVID-19 cases in these settings.
The Granite State will use part of its $1.2 billion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act block grant funding for the program.
In Pennsylvania, state and legislative leaders are urging the federal government to reauthorize the deployment of the Pennsylvania National Guard to support long-term care facilities on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gov. Tom Wolf, with the support of U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), ranking member of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, and U.S. Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA), is requesting reauthorization of Title 32, set to expire in mid-December. Federal authorization provides healthcare and benefits to guard members. Without federal authorization, states would have to consider placing the National Guard on state active duty, making the state financially responsible.
The Pennsylvania National Guard has been used to provide staffing support to assist in resident and patient care, as well as provide support services, including preparing meals and cleaning. Members of the Pennsylvania National Guard have provided the equivalent of 7,351 days as part of the COVID-19 response.
“As the nation expects spikes in COVID-19 cases in the coming months, this renewal is much needed to ensure the National Guard is able to support efforts to keep our citizens safe and to maintain National Guard operations without additional burden to states and territories,” Casey said.
Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Rachel Levine, M.D., said the National Guard has been essential in supporting the care of residents in long-term care facilities during the pandemic.
“As we see cases increasing across the state, we know that cases in long-term care facilities are a direct reflection of the community,” Levine said. “The Pennsylvania National Guard is a vital resource in assisting these facilities when there are staffing needs.”
National Guard forces around the country have provided support to states battling the threat posed to older adults by COVID-19 in assisted living communities, nursing homes and other long-term care and congregate settings.
In Delaware, the state Department of Health and Social Services is creating five incident response teams to help assisted living communities and other long-term care facilities with infection control training, testing, case tracking and incident response coordination for coronavirus outbreaks and positive cases.
The department said it is looking for volunteers among its own employees and within state government to staff the teams.
“We know that our long-term care facilities and the workers in those facilities are working very hard, but they, too, are struggling, and sometimes they are positive themselves, and so they to be out of work while the facility is managing outbreaks with residents,” DHSS Secretary Molly Magarik said during a news conference.
Magarik also announced the appointment of Susan M. Levy, M.D., CMD, as the long-term care medical director in the Division of Healthcare Quality. Levy began Nov. 9 and will support the state’s Health Operations Center and provide technical assistance directly to long-term care facilities.
Levy’s appointment was based on recommendations from the state’s Pandemic Resurgence Advisory Committee and long-term care facility partners asking for technical assistance.