The Trump Administration, through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), is announcing it has now distributed almost $2.5 billion of a planned $5 billion distribution to nursing homes to support increased testing, staffing, and personal protective equipment (PPE) needs. This funding allocation was made through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) as a targeted distribution from the $175 billion Provider Relief program funded through the bipartisan CARES Act and the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act.
“The Trump Administration has focused resources throughout our pandemic response on protecting the most vulnerable, including older Americans in nursing homes,” said HHS secretary Alex Azar. “By distributing these funds and providing training resources, we are improving the quality of care in nursing homes and helping them save lives.”
Given their congregate nature and resident population of older adults – often with underlying chronic medical conditions – nursing homes are high risk environments that have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Vulnerable older Americans relying on nursing home care, as well as their loved ones, need assurance that the federal government is doing all it can to ensure safety and the preservation of life during this pandemic. Today’s announcement is a critical reminder of the Trump administration’s commitment to protecting older Americans.
This distribution of almost $2.5 billion in additional funding to over 15,000 nursing homes nationwide supplements the $4.9 billion that was previously distributed to skilled nursing facilities. HHS plans on distributing another $2 billion to nursing homes later this fall based on certain performance indicators that will be shared in the future.
To further support nursing homes, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) will be partnering with America’s nursing homes to create the National Nursing Home COVID Action Network. Through the Network, AHRQ will offer training, and mentorship to the approximately 15,400 nursing homes across the country to supplement efforts aimed at protecting residents and staff.
The goals of the training and mentorship are to help nursing home professionals prevent COVID-19 from entering nursing homes via staff, visitors, and patients and prevent greater spread among patients, staff, and visitors if the virus is already present. This program will also guide nursing homes through best-practice care and treatment for patients who test positive for COVID-19; and protect staff from infection through evidence-based safety measures that will build their confidence in their ability to work and feel safe in the nursing homes.
“AHRQ is proud to support HHS in this critical initiative,” said AHRQ director Gopal Khanna. “AHRQ has a proven track-record in helping move evidence into practice to address critical needs like responding to COVID-19 and to achieve 21st century care for all Americans.”
This program will provide interactive small-group, problem-based training and customized mentorship through an existing network of academic medical centers, health centers, and community organizations. The training and mentorship program is designed to evolve as the needs of nursing homes continue to emerge though the fall. AHRQ has already established a pilot test of small-group training and mentoring through a partnership with the University of New Mexico’s ECHO Institute.
Participation in training and mentoring will be voluntary and nursing homes that participate will receive compensation to cover the costs of staff training time. Nursing homes will be able to begin signing up to participate in the Network in the coming weeks and training is expected to begin in September.
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Additional Nursing Home Training Efforts
Since April 2020, the CMS Quality Improvement Organizations (QIOs) have provided focused, one-on-one individualized technical assistance to over 1,400 nursing homes with identified needs based on inspection findings and data reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This week, CMS also announced a voluntary online national training program developed in coordination with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), for Medicare and Medicaid certified nursing homes with modules focused on basic infection control practices, cohorting strategies, vaccine distribution, and a variety of other topics.
“Under the decisive leadership of President Trump, the administration is pulling every lever at its disposal to keep nursing home residents safe,” said CMS administrator Seema Verma. “Just this week, CMS deployed an unprecedented national training program for nursing home staff and management to deliver all the practical knowledge that nursing homes need to keep the virus out, and stop its spread.”
Additionally, CMS and CDC have issued a number of guidance documents based on the latest science regarding the virus’ spread and strategies to combat it, all designed to help nursing homes keep their residents safe in the face of the pandemic. Given the plethora of resources being made available, this administration will continue to hold nursing homes accountable for failing to employ all precautions that safeguard older Americans from contracting COVID-19.