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Nursing facilities call for renewed national COVID-19 public health emergency

Published: Mar. 22, 2022 at 10:18 AM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Nursing facilities have called for a renewed national COVID-19 public health emergency declaration as they worry the BA.2 variant will cause the virus to resurge in the U.S.

The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living said it sent a letter to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra on Tuesday, March 22. The letter requested an extension of the Public Health Emergency declaration, which will soon expire, in order for long-term and post-acute care providers to continue to offer efficient and effective care to seniors.

In the letter, AHCA/NCAL President and CEO Mark Parkinson detailed the threat of a COVID-19 resurgence in the U.S. due to the BA.2 variant, a variant of the Omicron strain. He also said nursing facilities have faced unprecedented challenges the sector has endured as a result of the pandemic.

“It is clear that we are not out of the woods yet, and extending the PHE is critical to ensure states and health care providers have the tools and resources necessary to respond to this ongoing, global crisis,” Parkinson wrote.

The organization said the long-term care sector has lost over 400,000 employees since the beginning of the pandemic.

Parkinson also elaborated on the impact of the labor shortage and financial burdens that have left providers relying on temporary staff.

“Caregivers are burned out after fighting this virus for more than two years, and long-term care providers are struggling to compete for workers due to fixed government reimbursement rates…The current situation is unsustainable, and simply put, we need help.”

Additionally, Parkinson called for HHS to prioritize long-term care when handing out resources - like COVID-19 tests and treatments. He said providers have faced ongoing challenges trying to access the necessary supplies to quickly respond to outbreaks, even when residents are fully vaccinated.

“If we have learned anything over the past two years, it is that the elderly are among the most vulnerable to this virus, and therefore, deserve the greatest support and highest prioritization. Our caregivers have worked tirelessly day after day to protect and provide for their residents, and they need steady access to resources during this pandemic and moving forward.”

To read the full letter sent to HHS, click HERE.

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