By Bob Katzen

The Senate 9-31, rejected an amendment that would require the state to provide COVID-19 funding, until the end of the federal public health emergency, to nursing homes to support infection control standards, including staff training and wages; temporary labor costs; hiring new staff; procuring personal protective equipment (PPE); and costs associated with establishing single occupancy isolation rooms.

The funds would be equal to at least 15 percent of the average monthly MassHealth Fee-For-Service payments made to nursing facilities for the purpose of supporting infection control standards, including staffing, PPE and isolation of residents, through the duration of the federal public health emergency.

“Massachusetts nursing facilities are in the midst of a historic financial and workforce crisis, which has only been exacerbated by the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic,” said sponsor Sen. Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen). “This crisis impacts all nursing facilities—not-for-profit, for profit, family owned—and is directly attributable to a MassHealth payment system that has not kept pace with the cost of nursing facility care over the last decade.”

“It is critical that nursing facilities have the resources to remain vigilant against the unpredictable COVID-19 virus,” continued DiZoglio. “The stark reality is that nursing facilities across the state are faced with an immediate and urgent workforce crisis resulting in over 7,000, or 1 in 5 direct-care positions unfilled. Given the acute staffing crisis, to meet the ongoing care needs of their residents, the vast majority of nursing facility staff are working overtime and over half of nursing facilities are intermittently denying new resident admissions and hospital referrals resulting in disruptions in access to care.”

Senate Ways and Means chair Sen. Mike Rodrigues said he agrees that nursing homes need help but that “this was a very narrow bill focused on access to testing, masks and vaccines for communities disproportionately affected by COVID-19.” Rodrigues said, “We absolutely know that nursing homes are hurting. We intend to confront many more of the pandemic’s challenges and we will consider supports for nursing homes in future legislation.”

(A “Yes” vote is for the amendment. A “No” vote is against it.)

Sen. Patricia Jehlen No

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