Nursing homes face staff, equipment shortages during pandemic

Roughly 20% of nursing homes in the U.S. have faced severe shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) and staff during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new study.

The study, co-authored by Michael Barnett, assistant professor of health policy and management at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, was published August 20, 2020 in Health Affairs.

The researchers used data on roughly 15,000 nursing homes from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services COVID-19 Nursing Home Database, which provides information submitted by nursing homes about the impact of COVID-19 on staff and residents, as well as on shortages of staff, PPE, and testing. The study found that, despite intense policy attention and mounting mortality in nursing homes, overall shortage rates remained roughly the same from May through June 2020. PPE shortages were most pronounced for N95 masks and gowns, while staff shortages were most commonly reported for nursing aides and nurses.

Both PPE and staff shortages were greater in facilities that reported COVID-19 cases among residents and staff, as well as those that served more Medicaid recipients and had lower quality scores.

“The magnitude of these shortfalls poses a major threat to public health,” the authors wrote. They noted that COVID-19 has devastated nursing homes. In the U.S., by the end of July 2020, more than 60,000 people had died in nursing homes and other long-term-care facilities, accounting for nearly half of all COVID-related fatalities. In addition, more than 760 nursing home staff had died as of July 26.

“Unless these shortages are prioritized by policymakers, long-term care residents will continue to be at a great disadvantage in the pandemic,” they wrote.

Read the Health Affairs study: Severe Staffing And Personal Protective Equipment Shortages Faced By Nursing Homes During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Read a Forbes article: 1 In 5 U.S. Nursing Homes Suffer From PPE And Staff Shortages Amid Coronavirus Surge, Study Finds