If nursing homes and assisted living facilities in Florida cannot check on coronavirus-positive residents three times a day, hold them in a secluded section of the building, and check asymptomatic residents every eight hours, they’re now required to transfer residents to other facilities who can.
This comes as Gov. Ron DeSantis continues to loosen restrictions on business and travel in other areas of the state - keeping the focus on long-term care facilities where one out of every three coronavirus deaths came from.
“Sixty percent of the fatalities have been aged 75 or over. If you look under 25, we have not yet had a fatality. Those are important facts to be able to tailor the response to the areas that are most vulnerable,” DeSantis said at a news conference Wednesday in Miami.
NBC 6 Investigators obtained the letter sent to nursing homes from the Agency for Health Care Administration requiring facilities to set up dedicated units separated from coronavirus-negative residents with dedicated staff and personal protective equipment. It also required staff to check pulse, vital signs, oxygen and other medical needs at least three times a day and monitor residents without symptoms every eight hours, and to transfer residents if they cannot perform these functions.
There is not set estimate of how many people will be transferred around Florida at this time.
Residential Plaza Blue Lagoon is a 350-bed assisted living facility in Miami that has a dedicated secured memory wing for residents with dementia or Alzheimer's. So facility administrator Barbara Galindo says they’re used to securing residents in different parts of the building.
She’s worked at the assisted living facility for 17 years.
On the new rules, she told NBC 6 it is still important to treat everyone to their individual needs and specific medical requirements.
“You can’t expect a 90, 95-year-old to just adapt to a change of environment from one location to the next. A lot of planning needs to be taken to do that properly,” Galindo said. “These are individuals. They are not a piece of furniture that you can move them back and forth. Planning takes into place - which then, takes a lot of staff time.”
Galindo says they have capacity to take in coronavirus-negative patients but not new patients with the virus. Each way will require additional paperwork.
“We recognize this may not be an option for some nursing centers, which is why we continue to guide our members that decisions should be based on the ability to properly care for residents' medical needs as well as the ability to keep both residents and staff safe," Kristen Knapp from the Florida Health Care Association, an advocacy group for nursing homes and assisted living facilities, wrote to NBC 6.
Knapp’s organization and the AARP both praised another order from DeSantis issued this week requiring hospitals to test and make sure someone is COVID-negative before they are transferred to another facility.