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Florida nursing homes fare well in federal report, but glaring discrepancies abound


By John Haughey | The Center Square

The U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has posted its first set of COVID-19 data collected from nursing homes nationwide, and it indicates Florida is below the national average in the per-capita number of nursing home cases and deaths among residents and staff.

CMS, however, acknowledged data, which ran through May 31, are incomplete.

On May 1, CMS issued rules for nursing homes to report COVID-19 cases to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The new reporting requirements excluded assisted living facilities.

CMS gave nursing homes a two-week grace period. Only 8,332 of 15,412 nursing homes – 54.1 percent – reported data the first two weeks of May, while 13,600 – or 88 percent – did so the last two weeks of May.

Although one-in-seven nursing homes in Florida failed to submit data in the first two weeks of May, the overall response among state nursing homes has been better than most states, with 535 of 698 Florida nursing homes – or 76.6 percent – complying.

“We’re going to continue to work on scrubbing the data,” CMS Administrator Seema Verma said during a Thursday teleconference. “We may find issues as we go on, but we wanted to be as transparent as we can be with the American people.”

According to CMS’ state survey data, nursing homes reported more than 95,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and almost 32,000 deaths in May.

Despite having the nation’s oldest population demographically and the third-highest number of nursing home residents, Florida is not within the 10 highest states for COVID-19 deaths and cases among nursing home residents and staff.

According to the survey, nursing homes nationwide reported an average of 62 cases per 1,000 nursing home residents. Florida’s tally was 39.8.

Nursing homes nationwide reported an average of 27.5 COVID-19 deaths per 1,000 nursing home residents, according to CMS. Florida’s ratio was 17.9.

The survey indicated nursing homes nationwide reported an average of 39.5 cases among staff per 1,000 nursing home residents. Florida nursing homes reported 27.5. Nursing homes nationwide reported an average of 0.9 COVID-19 staff deaths per 1,000 nursing home residents. Florida’s tally was 0.2.

The Florida Health Care Association (FHCA) hailed the CMS report.

“These new numbers show what an incredible job our dedicated health care workers are doing at long-term care centers across Florida, despite overwhelming odds,” FHCA Executive Director Emmett Reed said in a statement. “There is no question that nursing home residents are at the highest risk for the challenges presented by COVID-19, and long-term care centers are dealing with unprecedented challenges faced nowhere else.”

The Miami Herald, Tampa Bay Times and other newspapers statewide, however, report glaring discrepancies in the data, which do provide state-by-state breakouts but allows users on the site to see what individual nursing homes report.

For instance, Fair Havens Center in Miami Springs, which has reported the most COVID-19-related deaths of any state nursing home, 33, is among 97 Florida nursing homes that didn’t submit data for the CMS report.

Meanwhile, Sunset Lake Health and Rehabilitation Center in Venice listed 103 COVID-19 deaths in the CMS report, but show none on the Florida Department of Health's report dedicated to nursing homes.

In addition, nearly one-in-five Florida nursing homes indicated they don’t have one-week supplies of protective gowns or N95 masks. Roughly 10 don’t have a one-week supply of eye protection and about 5 percent don’t have a one-week supply of gloves or hand sanitizer.

Some Florida nursing homes said they don’t have any gowns or N95 masks despite a state Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) mandate that requires nursing homes file a daily report listing shortages for the state’s Division of Emergency Management (DEM) to fill.

COVID-19, Data, Medicaid, Medicare, Nursing Homes, The Center Square


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