Are Michigan Nursing Homes Prepared for Coronavirus?

Nursing homes should be prepared for coronavirus just like they are prepared for influenza and other illnesses.

Now is a good time for individuals, businesses, healthcare systems, and schools to reexamine their pandemic preparedness plans, and make sure they’re ready.

Infection Control and Prevention

Nursing homes and other healthcare facilities throughout the United States are required to have some kind of infection control and prevention (CDC guidelines) program in place. This means these facilities have established practices and protocols for dealing with the prevention and management of all kinds of infectious diseases, including coronavirus disease.

Most healthcare facilities take their mission about protecting people from healthcare-associated infections very seriously and know what preventative measures are effective and which ones aren’t.

If you have a family member or friend in a Michigan nursing home and are concerned about the infection control program at that facility, just ask someone about it the next time you visit. Ask to speak with the Infection Preventionist (IP) on staff. This person, as well as other healthcare personnel at the nursing home, should be able to explain the practices at that facility, as well as what actions they are prepared to take to prevent the spread of illness.

What is Coronavirus?

What started as a few mysterious illnesses in Wuhan, China, has now traveled the world. It has infected tens of thousands of people, and while most are recovering, some are dying.

The outbreak has triggered unprecedented quarantines and spawned a few conspiracy theories. The virus is called “novel” because it is a new strain of a family of viruses that cause respiratory illnesses ranging from the common cold to more much more serious illnesses.

The current strain is related to two other coronaviruses that have experienced outbreaks in recent years: Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). Symptoms of a coronavirus infection range in severity from respiratory problems to cases of pneumonia, kidney failure, and buildup of fluid in the lungs.

You can find out more about coronavirus and what the government is learning about it as the pandemic unfolds at the CDC website.

Good News and Bad News

The good news is that public health officials say the coronavirus appears to be less deadly than SARS, which killed about 10% of the people who were infected during the 2002 outbreak. The bad news is that public health officials also tell us that the coronavirus appears to spread much more easily than SARS, and is similar to other coronaviruses that cause cold-like symptoms.

Elders Are Vulnerable

Older people and people living with illnesses such as diabetes and high blood pressure are at increased risk for all kinds of respiratory illnesses. Nursing homes and other long-term care facilities are the worst places for a respiratory infection of any kind to break out.

Residents are often physically frail, with diminished immune systems, and they are exposed every day to microbes (“germs”) carried into the nursing home by staff, volunteers, clergy, family members, and other visitors. As a result, healthcare-associated infections (HAI) responsible for at least 380,000 deaths among nursing home residents each year.

Prevention Programs and Protocols

Beginning in November 2019, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) requires all nursing homes have a designated Infection Preventionist (IP) on staff with specialized training in infection prevention and control. This person is responsible for implementing and/or coordinating infection control activities, including disease surveillance, implementing isolation precautions, investigating and controlling outbreaks, disease reporting and coordination with the health department. They are also responsible for maintaining and updating policy and procedure manuals and making content accessible to staff.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) developed the Infection Control Assessment and Response Program (ICAR) in 2014 in response to the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis. ICAR is an emergency preparedness program that helps healthcare facilities assess infection control practices and identify opportunities for improvement.

In 2015, The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) Surveillance for Healthcare-Associated and Resistant Pathogens (SHARP) unit secured grant funds to improve statewide preparedness and infection control practices and programs across the continuum of care. The program goal was to increase patient safety and expand infection control consultation. The SHARP unit focused on acute care and long-term acute care hospitals, long-term care facilities and outpatient clinics, including dental clinics.

Nursing Home Responsibilities

A nursing home is responsible for having a program in place for responding to outbreaks of viral infections like Coronavirus. But sometimes, frequently due to staffing shortages, something is missed.

If someone you care about is dealing with complications stemming from a viral illness, or has died as the result of a viral (or other) illness, and you suspect a missed medical diagnosis and delayed response, this person may be entitled to compensation.

Don’t Wait Too Long

If you have any questions or concerns about the care and treatment of your loved one who is living in a nursing home, please contact the personal injury and medical malpractice professionals at Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. to discuss your situation. Initial consultations are always free, and we never charge a fee unless we win your case.

Contact us toll-free at (866)-466-9912 or use our convenient online contact form.

Mark is a freelance writer living near Concord, New Hampshire. He works with a range of businesses and professional associations in their strategic messaging and content development projects. He also provides content development services to nonprofits and government agencies, helping them distill complex topics and make information more accessible across multiple platforms. When he’s not writing, he enjoys working outside and finds mowing his fields on a warm sunny day to be a peak experience.

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