Most CA nursing homes with COVID-19 cases were cited for infectious disease issues, data show

About 95% of the California nursing homes that are now dealing with COVID-19 were cited in the past for flaws in their plans to control infections, an ABC7 analysis shows.
LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Across the country, nursing homes and long-term care facilities have turned out to be one of the biggest breeding grounds for COVID-19, a disease that hits older generations the hardest.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has called nursing homes a "feeding frenzy" for the virus, and California seems to be no different. The state has totaled 3,030 coronavirus cases among staff and patients at nursing homes as of April 17.

But federal data shows a long history of nursing homes failing to provide adequate plans to stop the spread of infectious diseases.

Statewide, 95% of nursing homes with confirmed COVID-19 cases were cited by health inspectors at least once from 2016 through January 2020 for not doing enough to control the spread of infections, according to an analysis of nursing home inspection data by ABC7.

Of those facilities that were cited at least once, 68% of them were cited in 2019.

The majority of the nursing homes with COVID-19 cases, 76%, are in Southern California.

Of those, 148 facilities are in Los Angeles County, with 19 in Riverside, 14 in San Bernardino, 12 in Orange and 2 in Ventura County.

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According to Charlene Harrington, a professor emeritus at the University of California San Francisco, nursing homes are not staffed properly.

For the past 35 years Harrington has been studying problems associated with nursing homes and said the nurses are not only underpaid, but understaffed and overwhelmed. She said that leads to vulnerable residents getting less attention from skilled caregivers.

"Because they don't have time, they often don't wash their hands so the infection control is very poor," Harrington said.

Locally, the hardest hit nursing home is Brier Oak on Sunset, which has seen 80 patients and 62 staff test positive for COVID-19 for a total of 142 cases. It's been citied for infectious disease deficiencies twice since 2016 and has an overall rating of just one out of five.

"It's only when nursing homes don't come into compliance after being cited that they could be shut down or they could be fined," said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, the director of the LA County Public Health Department.

Removing residents from a nursing home may not be workable for many families, especially for those who require specialized care. But as COVID-19 continues to move through these facilities, Harrington said it may be something to seriously look at.

"If it were feasible, I think it would be a good idea to do it temporarily, at least until the coronavirus crisis has passed," she said.
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