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Loved ones of nursing home residents concerned about new DPH guidance

Between Dec. 22 and Jan. 4, 2,148 staff and 829 more residents turned up COVID positive. 74% of all the COVID deaths in Connecticut have come from nursing homes.

HARTFORD, Conn — New guidance from the state Department of Public Health has the family members of loved ones in nursing homes outraged.

Previously, the state required any person going from the hospital setting to the long-term care setting to test negative for COVID before they could enter the facility. Now, they’ve reversed course.

“I think that DPH really dropped the ball. They need to reverse or put a halt on this policy right now,” remarked Tammy Mesite, whose father is in a nursing home.

The state Department of Public Health is now asking nursing homes to accept COVID positive hospital discharges, in part, to free up hospital beds.

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But Mesite says freeing up space shouldn’t come at the expense of her father’s safety. He’s 83 and a resident of a nursing home in Chesterfield.

On Tuesday, he got a message saying two staff and two residents are COVID positive. Charles already survived COVID once.

“We have nurses and aides who are tending to both the positive person and our negative people. So am I surprised we got this email today? Absolutely not,” said Mesite. “It’s just very unacceptable. They just did not think of the elderly.”

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But Mag Morelli, who oversees the non-profit nursing homes, told FOX61 that all short-staffed facilities don’t have to comply.

“We have advised our members that this guidance does not require them to admit a COVID positive resident unless they are able to care for that resident safely,” remarked Morelli, the President of Leading Age CT.

At the onset of the pandemic, the state has designated five COVID recovery homes to isolate positive discharges from the vulnerable elderly. The staff shortages are one reason they aren’t able to reopen.

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“We did not see wide-scale use of them. Many never had a full census which is the number of people there,” explained Mairead Painter, the state long-term care Ombudsman.

Athena Healthcare took the lead on opening those recovery centers. They said that COVID positive patients can be cared for effectively alongside COVID negative residents.

“Our centers are equipped to care for these individuals. Our staff are appropriately trained. We have the availability of space,” said Tim Brown, the company spokesperson.

The state Department of Public Health declined FOX61’s request for an interview. Between Dec. 22 and Jan. 4, 2,148 staff and 829 more residents turned up COVID positive. 74% of all the COVID deaths in Connecticut have come from nursing homes.

Matt Caron is a reporter at FOX61 News. He can be reached at mcaron@fox61.com. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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