Commission has concern for nursing home residents

Administrative Business & COVID-19 Update

In addition to the normal weekly briefing on COVID cases in Marion County (there is currently only one active case), Marion County Health Department Administrator Diedre Serene updated the commission on nursing homes in Marion County.

The topic was brought up when Commissioner Kent Becker asked about nursing home plans for reopening.

“They discuss the plan and then we provide suggestions if needed. In a sense, we can’t tell them what to do, but we can guide them. CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) is how they get paid and reimbursed from Medicaid/Medicare so they have to follow those guidelines or if they are also a part of a higher organization or corporation, they have to follow those guidelines also,” said Serene.

“So you are saying you don’t have final approval?” asked Becker.

“In a sense, we do, but KDHE and health departments don’t regulate them,” said Serene.

“So these folks are taxpayers. They are constituents. We have to do something to try to at least get a family member to be able to visit these folks. I’m afraid we are going to lose more of them to depression than we ever thought we would lose to COVID. In fact, if given a choice, I think most of them would say I will just die to depression than to COVID. I think that there are some homes in Kansas, from what I understand, that is allowing one tested family member to be designated to have some type of contact. I just want to know what we can do to facilitate something like that. There is just a lot of frustration out there about that,” said Becker.

“I agree. And I get phone calls all the time from family members. I’ve been telling families to write their legislatures because I’ve been told that they (nursing homes) are following the CMS guidance and they have to go by the guidance rates. But our county rates are not as high as what they are getting from CMS,” said Serene. “I totally agree. Something needs to be done.”

Serene explained that Assisted Living is a bit different and courtyard and other visits are allowed while the nursing homes are more confined.

“Would it be beneficial for the commission to try to facilitate whether in person or Zoom a meeting between county commission, the facility management and try to involve one or two of our legislature —our local?” asked Becker.

“I think that would be great. But I think what a lot of facilities are worried about is surveys and getting fined if they open up more. So if the commissioners could meet with their board, maybe their medical officer or their medical officer for that facility, I think that would be wonderful,” said Serene.

Becker asked the commissioners if they would be willing to do something and facilitate some type of meeting.

Serene and Becker both stated that they would willing to pursue this and would like input from others.

Chairman Jonah Gehring suggested using Sparks funds and partnering with Tabor for testing of family members to clear them for visiting loved ones in nursing homes.

Serene did raise issues regarding the rate at which nursing homes have been going through supplies as they test employees twice weekly.

Commissioner Randy Dallke brought up how many nursing homes have built boxes with plexiglass and other ways for residents to visit, but many have little to nothing. Serene agreed.

“What many don’t understand is that even a window or door is hard for an elderly person to see through with reflections and they don’t always like talking on the telephone. Something needs to be done,” said Serene.

“I also understand and see where nursing homes are coming from when some of them have gone so long without a case. They are being careful and don’t want to open up the door to cases and being featured on Channel 12 and 3,” said Commissioner Randy Dallke. “I get that.”

The commissioners all agree this is a serious concern and needs to be addressed and will be working on it.

In other business, the board heard:

  •  updates from Road and Bridge
  •  from EMS Director Travis Parmley that the Florence EMS is short-staffed and in need of more first responders.
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