COVID-19 working group looks at long-term care industry

The Senate’s COVID-19 working group met this week to hear from experts in long-term care (LTC) services on how they are responding to this crisis and the significant challenges they face. Legislators heard from providers, the State Ombudsman for Long-Term Care, and the Minnesota Department of Health on their recommendations for the Legislature and to learn about their efforts to make sure organizations serving seniors across Minnesota are supported.

Residents at LTC facilities are at extreme risk during this pandemic due to older age, underlying medical conditions, and congregate living conditions. In response to this crisis, facilities have had to make significant changes to daily operations in recent weeks like in-room meal deliveries and limiting family visitation. These changes often make seniors feel even more isolated, and providers are hopeful that some of these measures can be loosened as they continue to advocate for additional testing supplies and more personal protective equipment.

Last week, state officials released the names of long-term care facilities with one or more known cases of COVID-19 among staff or residents; names of homes with fewer than 10 residents are withheld in an effort to protect privacy. MDH emphasized that this list is not intended to shame facilities or their staff but is a way to keep families informed during this time. When a positive case is found at facility, they are assigned a case manager and contacted by infection-control experts to provide support and guidance.

The Ombudsman for Long-Term care noted that there has been an uptick in the number of calls they have received from families and LTC residents over the past few weeks. This office is committed to working with families and residents who have concerns or complaints about the long-term services and supports they receive. Regional ombudsmen are available to assist with issues related to health and safety, consumer rights, and person-centered planning. For more information on the Ombudsman for Long-Term Care, visit: mn.gov/dhs/people-we-serve/seniors/services/ombudsman

MDH continues to work with legislators and advocates to explore options to make sure LTC providers have regulatory flexibility and supports they need during this time. While issues like PPE supply shortages and limited testing remain, legislators are committed to finding solutions to support residents and the staff that care for them.

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