Courtesy of the National Guard

The National Guard will begin to accompany Department of Public Health employees as they continue to inspect nursing homes suffering from COVID-19.

Officials from the Department of Public Health and the National Guard said about 40 members of the National Guard’s medical unit will accompany state officials for unannounced visits to nursing homes. DPH began their inspections last week.

Connecticut National Guard Captain David Pytlik said they will ensure compliance with personal protective equipment and they will also help educate workers on the proper donning and doffing of PPE.

More than 43% of confirmed and “probable” deaths associated with COVID-19 were at nursing homes, according to state data released Friday. The reported number of positive cases doubled and deaths linked to COVID-19 more than tripled in Connecticut nursing homes in eight days.

Union members, who work in some of the nursing homes, alleged Friday that administrators are hoarding the equipment and only provide new masks and gowns when DPH officials ask questions.

Nicole Jefferson, a nurses aide at Apple Rehabilitation of Rocky Hill, said all they are asking for is proper PPE to protect themselves and their residents.
“It’s very scary to know you’re showing up to work every day and to perform your duty effectively and we’re not able to get proper PPE,” Jefferson said in a Zoom organized by SEIU 1199.

She said they don’t feel safe taking breaks or using the restroom because they are given only one “johnny” for their whole shift. A johnny is a hospital gown, which doesn’t necessarily protect against the virus, but it adds a small layer of protection.

Barbara Cass,  the nurse with the Department of Public Health who oversees nursing home inspections, said they are following up when they receive complaints about hoarding by nursing home administrators or a lack of PPE for staff. She said either with a phone call or FaceTime where they ask the administrator to walk down to the supply of PPE to show them.

She said when they visit the nursing homes they will look at purchase orders for the PPE. She said they field about 50 to 60 phone calls a day from providers concerned about their supplies of PPE.

“It’s important for us to do a deep dive to ensure there is PPE,” Cass said. “PPE is essential in controlling the incidents of this infection.”