Just last week a judge in Daviess County put an end to a dispute between families and the operators of the Washington Nursing Center over a plan to empty it of local patients and turn it into a COVID-19 facility.
Daviess Circuit Court Judge Greg Smith issued a temporary restraining order sought by Ernie Evans, acting as a guardian for a resident, to stop the transfers. The suit came after Chosen Healthcare tried twice to move the patients out only to be stopped by a local abatement order from the Daviess County Health Department.
A hearing was scheduled for Wednesday on a proposed injunction that would permanently stop the company from making any transfers. That hearing was stopped dead before it began. Daviess Circuit Court reports that the two sides announced that they had reached a confidential settlement in the case. The judge then dismissed the case at the request of both sides.
Meanwhile the battle between nursing home families and operators has continued as officials try to work out some kind of language that will allow for the treatment of COVID-19 nursing home patients while keeping those who are not sick from becoming sick.
The mess in Washington caught the attention of both the Indiana Hospital Association and the Indiana Health Care Association who issued a joint statement.
"Chosen Healthcare was following federal and state guidance in its actions to create a facility dedicated to caring for this highly vulnerable population with COVID-19. The Indiana State Health Department (ISDH) released formal guidance on how to establish these dedicated facilities with enhanced coordination between hospitals and nursing facilities," said the statement from IHA President Brian Tabor and Zachary Cattell, president of the IHCA. "The relationships between hospitals and long-term care partners are generally highly collaborative and have led to improvements in care transitions and other areas. During the COVID-19 public health emergency, health care providers are being asked to take unprecedented actions to protect patients in a rapidly evolving environment, which requires timely communication. Clearly, communication could have been improved in this instance. Hospitals and nursing homes are committed to working together through this crisis to provide the best care to Hoosiers."
The statement on the situation in Washington referred to new state requirements and guidance on creating COVID-19 long-term care facilities. The new rules give long-term care facilities the flexibility to expand both their care and staff to create new wings, floors and units dedicated to treating COVID-19. The guidance though, recommends the facilities partner with state and local leaders.
"We fully believe that this is a necessary step to help to further protect the vulnerable residents in our 92 Indiana counties," said Indiana State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box.
The new rules for long-term care facilities for COVID patients include waivers on staffing requirements, liability protection, data support, testing, training, personal protection equipment and enhanced rates. The rates will be 50 percent higher per bed in the COVID facility than a normal Medicare bed.
Local health officials are expecting to be included in these decisions even though their power to abate such changes appears to have been taken away. "Dr.Box stated today (Wednesday) in her message that community partners should work together in planning COVID units," said Daviess County Public Health Nurse Kathy Sullender.