The coronavirus is using our nursing homes as an arena for what we hope is its third and final act. Area nursing homes and adult-care centers began testing their employees twice for coronavirus this week. Yet there are warnings that the state’s testing mandate is not sustainable.
That’s how this virus works. It attacks the most vulnerable among us and defies rational scientific attempts to turn it aside.
But the long and short of it is this: Nursing facilities will need federal and state assistance to shoulder the financial and logistical burden of such frequent testing.
So the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living, which represents more than 14,000 skilled nursing centers and assisted-living communities nationwide, estimates that testing the state’s 143,000 nursing-home employees just once a week would carry a price tag of more than $20 million. Twice-a-week testing suggests a geometrical increase in the cost.
To gain federal help, for example, the FASNY Firemen’s Home in Hudson is tracking its testing expenses in anticipation of reimbursement. The facility is a nonprofit supported by FASNY and private donations.
The Firemen’s Home began testing its employees twice weekly with LabCorp on May 20. Testing is conducted each day due to the variability of employee schedules.
Ghent Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, which came under fire from county health officials for its decision not to conduct a full testing of all residents, has begun testing all employees on Mondays and Thursdays.
Ghent Nursing has contracted with BioReference Laboratories for the twice-weekly testing of employees.
The bottom line is simple and direct. Testing is costly but necessary to protect nursing-home residents, but the employees who take care of them each day, prepare their daily meals and administer their medication must be shielded from harm as well. Absence of state and federal assistance now could do more damage to the nursing-home population, including employees, in the future.