The rapid actions and precautions of former-President Donald Trump’s Veterans Administration saved countless lives in VA nursing homes around the nation. A recent study reveals that residents of VA nursing care facilities, referred to as “Community Living Centers (CLC),” owned and operated by the Veterans Administration, have a lower death rate than non-VA nursing residences. Why is that the case? One reason is, as Jeff Charles reported in Liberty Nation:
“New York Attorney General Letitia James published a document on Thursday claiming the state’s Department of Health underreported COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes by as much as 50%. The study comes after the controversy regarding New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s decision to compel nursing homes to take on elderly patients infected with the virus, which resulted in a significant number of fatalities.”
This level of mortality was not true with VA’s COVID care, as Patricia Kime told us in her February 2021 piece for Millitary.com. “COVID-19 Death Rate at VA Nursing Homes is 13 Times Lower Than National Average.,” she wrote. The death rate in VA CLCs is 0.5% compared with the 6.5% mortality rate found in one-third of the Americans testing positive among the 1.4 million living in nursing homes. Achieving the low infection and death rate was not easy and caused considerable sacrifice for CLC residents and families.
As Robert Wilkie, then-secretary of veterans affairs in the Trump administration, explained in an interview with Military.com: “At this very tough time in their lives, we cut them off from families and friends, but we did it in order to protect them.” The Veterans Administration cares for more than 30,000 residents in its nursing homes, with many of the “most fragile” being World War II veterans. Wilkie called the decisions that kept the nursing home residents safe “hard choices,” but those choices were effective.
In Stephen Spotswood’s July 2020 US Medicine article, “VA Touts Lower CLC COVID-19 Rates vs. Community Nursing Homes,” he explains in June 2020 throughout the nation, COVID-19 infections in nursing homes were rampant with “COVID-related” deaths climbing rapidly. As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reminded us frequently, nursing homes with elderly residents who often suffer from other serious medical conditions, or “comorbidities” as the CDC calls them, are most susceptible to be overcome by COVID infections.
Though, as the CDC also points out, only 6% of the deaths are attributable to the COVID-19 virus exclusively. Comorbidities are what nursing homes must worry about most. Spotswood said that in the VA CLCs, quoting Office of Public Health Executive Director Dr. Larry Mole, the care givers, “…aggressively manage comorbidities in veterans who are hospitalized in our CLCs.”
When it came to daily medical routines to fight COVID infections in the VA CLCs, Dr. Mole pointed out:
“We treat our CLCs like an acute care medical unit. In a civilian nursing home, usually, there’s one physician who’s a medical director and some consultants who come in. In every wing of a CLC, we have assigned physicians, preferably geriatricians with expertise in elderly care or geriatric care. In addition, we staff with large numbers of RNs. And we train in infection control on a monthly basis as we work our way through care.”
The VA has been very open with its successful approaches to keeping its CLC residents protected from the COVID-19 pandemic. Richard Stone, MD, VA’s executive-in-charge, described the VA’s outreach in sharing its process and procedures for achieving the low death rate. “There are hundreds of VA employees that are out providing consultative services,” he said. “We’ve been in hundreds of nursing homes around the nation continuing to provide that service.”
America’s veterans and their families have made personal sacrifices in defense of the nation. The VA is clearly on to something right in its prevention and treatment of COVID-19 infections in it CLCs. Hopefully, other nursing homes where COVID death rates are above the national average, like those in New York, will follow the VA’s lead.
The views expressed are those of the author and not of any other affiliation.
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