DENVER — We know by now COVID-19 is hitting the hardest inside nursing homes and senior care centers. What we don't yet know is why some facilities have dozens of cases while others have none.
It's going to take months for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) to conduct increased inspections inside each of the facilities around the state to make sure they are following guidelines to keep older adults safe.
Getting a look inside all 1,081 nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and senior care centers across the state takes time. It's also time that CDPHE is racing against to save lives.
Gov. Jared Polis (D-Colorado) asked the department to increase inspections. The goal is to now survey at least 55 facilities a week, a 50% increase over usual times. They’ve completed 281 Infection Control Focused Surveys since March 22, encompassing around a quarter of all facilities in the state. It’ll take months to visit all of them.
"We have found some facilities that are not as compliant as they should have been," said Randy Kuykendall in an interview with 9NEWS on April 28. Kuykendall is the director of Health Facilities and Emergency Medical Services for CDPHE.
CDPHE have issued at least 137 citations, or discrepancies, since March 22. Some were related to infection control, others were not. It’s not clear how many different facilities were issued citations or what the problems were. We also don't yet know which specific facilities were issued citations.
If a facility is issued a citation, they must come up with a plan to fix the problem, submit it to CDPHE and it must be approved by the state. In some cases, the facility is asked to fix the problem immediately.
Doug Farmer is the president of the Colorado Health Care Association, advocating for long-term care facilities and their staff across the state. He points to a lack of PPE and testing as a barrier between knowing who is infected and who is not.
"We don’t know exactly how many have COVID and are asymptomatic," Farmer said. "I think the challenges of following any of the guidance right now, whether it’s the federal guidance, the state guidance, some of the local guidance coming from local health departments, is access to PPE."
CDPHE now keeps track of how many facilities have sufficient PPE. Of the 63 surveyed, eight were labeled as being in crisis with an immediate need for supplies. We do not know the names of those eight facilities.
CDPHE is conducting their inspections both virtually and in-person.
It’s safer for inspectors to do their work over video calls, but most inspections aren’t complete until they visit the facility geared up in full PPE.
The first inspections focused on facilities that had an infection control citation in the past three years. CDPHE then moved on to other facilities with known outbreaks.
At last count at least 342 people had died after testing positive for COVID-19 inside senior care facilities.
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