Covid-19 Devastates Nursing Homes With Rising Number of Deaths

The Covid-19 pandemic has taken a disproportionate toll on elderly people living in nursing homes.

Karin Huster, a medical referent for Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) says, “I think over 40% of the deaths will will have happened in nursing homes. Nursing homes are places that have traditionally, you know, fragile people. This is where Covid was the deadliest frankly.”

MSF supported more than 50 long-term care facilities—including 31 nursing homes and 24 adult foster care homes—in Michigan between the end of May and July 31.

Karin explains, ”The vast majority of nursing homes are not places where you and I would want to leave our parents. And this is not per se by fault of the people who work there. But it is because of our system that has neglected those places, that has not been funding them well, and that has chosen to let these places be places that are chronically neglected. And so you have an outbreak, a huge outbreak like a Covid-19 that hit already a chronically sick institution and you have an acute on chronic disaster that’s very deadly.”

Karin says one of the most important things MSF was able to do was embed in the facilities.

“It’s not that these places don’t have guidance, don’t have guidelines, don’t have protocols. They’ve been, in fact, inundated by these things. And what they actually needed were people like us to be in the facility and to help them translate that that guideline into actual simple protocol and, you know, something that you can implement.

Karin says MSF also provided classes on infection prevention control.

“We separated our classes between the non-clinical and the clinical staff because we found that the non-clinical staff – housekeepers, people in the kitchen, the receptionists they’re working in those places. They’re working in high risk environment. But they don’t receive the attention that the medical staff receives.”

She adds, “We’re not going to get any kind of return from these elderly folks. But that’s not how we should be thinking about that and about our elderly. At least in the United States, the way we think is wrong.”

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