christine stuart / ctnewsjunkie photo
Rep. Michelle Cook shares her story as Rep. Cathy Abercrombie holds a photo of Pops (christine stuart / ctnewsjunkie photo)

HARTFORD, CT — When Rep. Michelle Cook’s father-in-law, William J. Cook, also known as Pops, was sent to the hospital, they didn’t suspect it was COVID-19 because they were told there was no coronavirus in the nursing home.

“The emergency room nurse told my husband that, in fact, there was COVID in the nursing home Pops had come from,” Cook said as she recounted the final days of Pops’ life. “So, now we wonder, why are we being told two different stories? Why, if there was no COVID in his nursing home, did the hospital know and the nursing home not know?”

Pops died on April 2.

There are still more questions than answers for Cook and the thousands of other families who lost loved ones to COVID-19 in Connecticut nursing homes.

Nursing home deaths account for 63.8% of the total number of deaths in Connecticut related to COVID-19. Overall, the state’s data showed four out of every ten nursing home residents has tested positive for the coronavirus.

Cook and a bipartisan group of female lawmakers are asking for a statewide investigation of all nursing homes, in addition to an investigation of the state’s response to the pandemic.

“We must recognize there were outcomes that varied from no COVID cases in nursing homes to nursing homes almost 100% COVID-positive,” Cook said. “We must do better.”

She said workers were not given the appropriate personal protective equipment, staffing ratios were unacceptable, and neither testing nor reporting was taking place.

Gov. Ned Lamont has ordered a third-party investigation of nursing homes; legislators want many questions answered including those directed at the state’s response to the crisis in congregate care.

The bidding documents for the investigation were posted Friday and have yet to be awarded to a contractor.

Rep. Cathy Abercrombie, D-Meriden, and Rep. Toni Walker, D-New Haven, said there still is no requirement in Connecticut regulations that nursing homes notify their patients’ families about an infectious disease, whether it’s COVID-19 or influenza.

Abercrombie and Walker said that’s something the legislature needs to address.

Abercrombie said the state also has to look at how it’s issuing fines to nursing homes because it appears that infectious disease control is not something the state looks at when it considers financial penalties.

“If 10 people come down with the flu, obviously you’re not following the proper protocols,” Abercrombie said. “That should be a financial hit.”

Walker said right now a lot of the sanctions are self-reported and “we’ve got to put an end to that.”

She pointed out that nursing homes cost Connecticut about $1.2 billion annually.

“This is a major part of our society that has not been regulated very well,” Walker said. “And we need to change that, and we need to address the issues to protect our families that either live there or work there.”

She said lawmakers can’t neglect this issue any longer.

There are currently about 22,000 nursing home beds in Connecticut. 

Matthew Barrett, president and CEO of the Connecticut Association of Health Care Facilities, and Mag Morelli, president of Leading Age Connecticut, said no state has been more thorough in inspecting nursing homes.

“The associations firmly believe that such a review will demonstrate that the DPH Covid-19 nursing home inspection and oversight efforts are very likely the most comprehensive in the nation,” Barrett and Morelli said.

The Department of Public Health said it’s done more than 1,000 inspections of Connecticut’s 215 nursing homes.

The state releases information about nursing home inspections every Thursday.

The nursing home associations would like the study to include a thorough review of the sufficiency of the state’s financial support for nursing homes, both before and during the pandemic.

Lamont in early March signed an executive order granting the state’s hospitals, nursing homes and healthcare workers immunity from lawsuits while the COVID-19 public health emergency is in effect.

The only exception is cases in which criminal conduct or extreme neglect can be established.

Rep. Michelle Cook and female lawmakers talk about nursing home deaths.

Rep. Michelle Cook and a bipartisan group of female lawmakers talk about nursing home inspections following the deaths of thousands of nursing home residents to COVID-19.

Posted by CTNewsJunkie on Tuesday, June 16, 2020