WASHINGTON, D.C. — Even more than three months into the COVID-19 pandemic, more than half of assisted living operators have less than a two-week supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) for staff.
This is according to a recent survey by the National Center for Assisted Living (NCAL). Based in Washington, D.C., the organization is the assisted living arm of the American Health Care Association. The survey polled 375 NCAL members between June 10 and June 17.
While more than 70 percent of operators have asked for help from state and local health agencies, many are still forced to reuse PPE or rely on homemade supplies, according to the survey. To date, assisted living communities have not received any direct federal funding, PPE shipments or prioritization for testing, as the federal government has largely focused on skilled nursing.
“The lack of available PPE has also put long-term care providers at a serious disadvantage in protecting residents and staff, especially given the vulnerable population in assisted living communities,” says Scott Tittle, executive director of NCAL. “Since the beginning of the pandemic, these providers have faced similar challenges as other healthcare and congregate settings in acquiring this equipment, due to its high demand and world supply chain issues.”
“As many states reinstitute public gatherings as well as plan guidance on ‘opening up’ long-term care facilities to visitation, this is a critical time period to ensure our assisted living communities are equipped to keep COVID-19 out of their buildings,” continues Tittle. “Our organization has requested $5 billion in emergency funding from the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) to help pay for PPE supplies as well as expanded testing and additional staffing.”
Like nursing homes, residents of assisted living communities are among those most vulnerable to COVID-19, as more than half are over the age of 85. Seven out of 10 assisted living communities have reached out to state and local officials and nearly half have solicited donations from the public, according to the survey results.
More than 70 percent of respondents are reusing PPE in accordance with CDC strategies to optimize supplies, and many facilities are still having to use homemade or improvised PPE like hand-sewn face masks.