To slow the spread of Covid-19, each of us has had to adopt strict new behaviors like washing our hands for 20 seconds and constantly dousing surfaces with disinfectant. But the new rules of sanitation are a breeze compared to the infection prevention protocols at nursing homes across the country, where some of the most vulnerable members of society live. The challenge of nursing homes came into focus following the Covid-19 outbreak at Life Care Center in Kirkland, Washington.
An analysis by the Weekly shows that these facilities have struggled to comply with federal standards, resulting in citations by government health inspectors. Seventy-five percent of nursing homes have been cited over the past three years for the failure of staff to follow infection control rules. California performed far worse, with more than 90 percent receiving citations.
In Monterey County, there are 14 nursing homes whose federal inspection records are available because they accept Medicare and/or Medicaid. Of those, 11, or nearly 80 percent, have been cited for infection control slips over the past three years.
The local figures may be alarming, but a deeper look at the type of infractions shows that local nursing homes have performed well compared to the rest of the country. Whereas 14 percent of violations nationwide have been for serious deficiencies, the number of serious deficiencies in Monterey County has been zero over the past three years.
Serious citations would include, for example, failing to report an outbreak of a disease affecting multiple staff and patients to the government. Far more common are paperwork problems or minor missteps in bandaging a patient. Federal records show 20 such citations across all local nursing homes.
In an example from 2019, a government inspector was observing a nurse treat the wounds of a patient at a local facility. The nurse, wearing gloves, applied an antiseptic solution to the patient’s right heel, which had a deep tissue injury. Then, the nurse removed the gloves and put on a new pair to treat a wound on the patient’s left ankle. The nurse failed to wash their hands between gloving.
“This failure had the potential to result in transmission of infection in the facility,” the inspection report reads.
Then 11 local nursing homes with infection prevention citations are Windsor Monterey Care Center, Carmel Hills Care Center, Windsor The Ridge Rehabilitation Center, Eden Valley Care Center, Katherine Healthcare, Windsor Gardens Rehabilitation Center Of Salinas, Cypress Ridge Care Center, Pacific Coast Post Acute, Westland House, Forest Hill Manor Health Center and Windsor Skyline Care Center. In total, they have 870 beds.
The only three facilities with a clean infection control track record are Canterbury Woods, Pacific Grove Healthcare Center and George L. Mee Memorial Hospital Skilled Nursing Facility. All three have a smaller-than-average bed count.