Florida Nursing Homes Receive Much Needed Assistance

Nursing homes in Florida are getting some relief from a shortage of caregivers due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to industry leaders.

In addition, Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday told nursing home leaders he wants to send some COVID-19 rapid tests to nursing homes and other long-term care facilities for testing the elderly.

On a conference call with the Florida Health Care Association, which represents the nursing home industry, DeSantis suggested the rapid tests could be used for “spot checks” of residents.

“I’m fully supportive of that,” he said.

DeSantis did not commit how many rapid tests the state will allocate to nursing homes and long-term care facilities that are home to upwards of 150,000 elderly people.

Earlier this week, the governor said 2,000 of the rapid tests were coming to Florida for use in hospitals that can give results in five minutes.

A troubling issue for Florida nursing homes is a shortage of health care workers and regulators are now allowing “personal care attendants” to perform more hands-on functions normally handled by certified nursing assistants, according to the state Agency for Health Care Administration.

In addition, the state is temporarily waiving a live-scan fingerprinting requirement for new employees who work with residents because fingerprinting vendors are shut down, according to an emergency order.

Instead of fingerprinting, nursing homes are required to conduct background checks through several sources, according to the order. The waiver is in effect for 30 days and is due to expire April 27 unless extended.

The state of Indiana has taken the same step to allow personal care attendants to take on more duties, according to Emmett Reed, executive director of the Florida health care association.

“We have only begun to see the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak across our state, and it is likely the staffing challenges will significantly increase over the next few weeks,” Reed said in a letter to Mary Mayhew, secretary of the state health care administration.