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Virus hits even top-rated nursing homes

By Dave Collins

The Associated Press

Hartford, conn. » The Abbott Terrace Health Center in Waterbury, where 41 residents have died from the coronavirus, has been cited by regulators for infection control violations and fined three times by the state and federal governments over the last several years. It has the lowest nursing home overall rating issued by the federal government — one star, for “much below average.” About 40 miles away, the Kimberly Hall North nursing home in Windsor has the highest rating, five stars, issued by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. It has had one infection control citation, but no state or federal fines, over the past several years. Yet 43 residents there have died from the virus.

The coronavirus has had no regard for health care quality or ratings as it has swept through nursing homes around the world, killing efficiently even in highly rated care centers.

Preliminary research indicates the numbers of nursing home residents testing positive for the coronavirus and dying from COVID- 19 are linked to location and population density — not care quality ratings — said Vincent Mor, professor of health services policy and practice at Brown University’s School of Public Health.

“It is not necessarily related to the good star, bad star ... of the home,” Mor said, “because really good homes, they have staff who go home and they are going to be living in an environment with lots of COVID and the staff will bring it in with them.”

In a study funded by the National Institute on Aging, Mor and fellow researchers reviewed data from nursing homes in 26 states, including information provided by Genesis Healthcare about its nursing homes in those states. The initial findings are supported by a similar study of nursing home data in 20 states led by researchers at Harvard Medical School.

They found homes where residents were infected with the coronavirus tended to be larger than other facilities, in urban areas and in counties with higher infection numbers. The data also showed the number of infections did not correlate to quality ratings or prior infection violations.

In Connecticut, eight nursing homes have had 30 or more coronavirus deaths. Of the eight, three have fivestar ratings, two were given four stars, one had three stars, one had two stars and one had one star. All eight have been fined or cited by state or federal health officials in the past five years, according to an Associated Press review of regulatory actions.

The star ratings are based on the results of health inspections, staffing levels and the quality of resident care measures, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

The virus has refocused attention to longstanding problems in the industry, including infection control lapses and staffing problems. In Connecticut as of May 14, there were 1,927 COVID-19-related nursing home deaths, about 60 percent of the more than 3,200 total deaths statewide on that date. Nearly 7,000 nursing home residents have tested positive for the virus.

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