Tonight, the Perpetual Notion Machine changes direction, at least a little bit, from our typical science-related topics. But it does relate to the coronavirus. Why were nursing homes hit so hard by COVID-19? Our guest is Barbara Bowers, professor and associate dean for research in the School of Nursing at UW-Madison. With some background and commentary from host Dennis Shaffer, Barbara describes the essence of nursing homes, what services they provide, why they didn’t anticipate and have contingencies for infectious outbreaks, and why nursing homes were so vulnerable when COVID first hit. Barbara explains the strain and lack of support nurses and CNAs, certified nursing assistants, have to go through at their job. The staff are too few, overworked, and underpaid. Many staff work double shifts at different locations, which creates inconsistent care from recognized staff members. But perhaps the biggest problem of all is the nursing home system itself. About 70% operate as for-profit, like a business, where they exploit Medicaid, where most of their funding comes from, Medicare, lucrative in just a few cases, and residents without health insurance. Barbara also describes the regulation and inspections of nursing homes, and the unreliability of vaccine distribution. Over the course of last summer and fall that had the highest impact of COVID-19, nursing homes had the highest number of deaths. By the end of November, over 100,000 deaths were recorded, 40% of all deaths.
To get some detail on this nursing home tragedy, you must read the story from the December issue of AARP Bulletin. This is the primary source of the topic for this show.
To see nursing homes and COVID-19 by the numbers, check out the AARP Nursing Home Dashboard.
On their COVID-19 website, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) has a webpage devoted to nursing homes.
And finally, DHS also has extensive regulations and regular inspections of nursing homes. To see where, the number of investigations, and the results, please go to the Facility-Wide Public Health Investigations page.
Image courtesy: Gerd Altmann from Pixabay