May 20,2020

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Wyden Highlights GAO Study Showing Nursing Homes Fell Short on Infection Prevention in Years Leading up to COVID-19 Outbreak

Federal Watchdog Data Demonstrates Nursing Homes Were Unprepared for a Pandemic

Washington, D.C. – Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., today highlighted a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that shows most nursing homes failed to meet federal standards on a variety of infection prevention and control measures, in a multi-year survey. The data comes as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact nursing homes across the country, with over 28,000 deaths to date.

“This new report shows that warning signs were ignored and nursing homes were unprepared to face a pandemic,” Wyden said. “For years nursing home surveys pointed out areas where federal standards for nursing home safety and enforcement efforts should be improved, but the Trump administration chose not to correct them. Too many seniors and their families have suffered as a result of this pandemic, and there need to be big changes in the way nursing homes care for seniors.”

GAO found that about 40 percent of nursing homes surveyed had an infection control or prevention deficiency in any given year from 2013 to 2019. Infection control and prevention standards include steps like staff practicing proper hygiene and handwashing, isolating sick residents, and making use of personal protection equipment to prevent spread. The report also found that 80 percent of all nursing homes had an infection control and prevention deficiency in at least one year between 2013 and 2017.

The report comes as CMS is expected to release data next week on the number of COVID-19 infections and deaths among nursing home residents and staff. Wyden has repeatedly called for CDC and CMS to begin collecting and releasing this data. 

The full report from GAO can be found here.