Before coronavirus, 90% of CA nursing homes were cited for not doing enough to control the spread of infection

Nursing homes are one of the highest risk environments in the current coronavirus outbreak. And many have a history of failing to have or properly carry out a plan to prevent the spread of infectious diseases.

"It's sad. It's something that seems to be spreading so people are very worried about it," said Robert Thornton, who is a patient in a rehabilitation facility recovering after being hit by a car.

"There are a lot of elderly people who are here. They are vulnerable and it could be bad," he said.

In California, 90% of nursing homes 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 federal data by ABC7 Eyewitness News.

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The analysis shows more than 2,000 violations in the state against those facilities for not having plans and programs in place to limit, investigate and control the spread of infections.

Nationwide, about 75% of nursing homes were cited. The Life Care Center, the nursing home in Kirkland, Wash., where at least 13 people have died from COVID-19, was cited last year for a failing to properly carry out an infectious disease plan.

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The U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services require these plans to include appropriate hand hygiene, appropriate use of personal protective equipment such as gowns and gloves and cleaning and disinfecting equipment. Nursing homes must also provide surveillance and identification of infections, and identify and communicate transfers in and out of the facility.

State officials inspect nursing homes once a year. In addition, they can inspect a facility any time someone submits a complaint.

The data indicates, in every case, that the provider committed to correcting the deficiency. But 66% of facilities were cited in multiple inspections, including three facilities in Los Angeles that were cited for seven infection-control related deficiencies in 2017, 2018 and 2019.

York Healthcare & Wellness Centre and Lakeview Terrace said the problems had been corrected. Country Villa Rehabilitation Center did not want to comment on the issue.

Government health experts have said elderly people are more at risk of dying from the fast-spreading virus and others have suggested putting severe restrictions in place - such as banning visitors - from nursing homes until the current crisis is under control.

The federal government has also said in recent days that it would focus future nursing home inspections narrowly on infection control for now - and redouble inspections at facilities where past health reviews identified infection-control deficiencies.
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