Is there no dignity among owners and operators of nursing homes that so many fail their most basic responsibility to protect the lives of the residents and staff?
No one should be surprised by the article in last Sunday’s Globe (“Nursing homes lag behind on rollout of booster shots,” Page A4). Given the abject failure of the nursing home industry last year, despite legislative grants of immunity and a massive infusion of tax dollars, nursing home residents and direct-care staff remain at high risk of serious illness and death.
Fifty years ago, an enlightened, though ill-prepared, Massachusetts state government transformed the care of mentally ill residents by closing mental institutions and moving people back to the community. This transformation occurred only after news media revealed the inhuman conditions in state institutions and the public demanded reform. Perhaps it’s time to re-imagine how older adults and people with disabilities are treated and use federal and state dollars to provide accessible, affordable housing along with increased access to home and community-based services.
It’s time to shutter the traditional congregate nursing homes by revoking licenses for those with poor ratings, especially those with poor track records for protecting residents and staff during the COVID-19 pandemic. Until this happens, Massachusetts needs to strengthen residents’ rights and provide effective enforcement with frequent, meaningful inspections, fines, and closures.
The Commonwealth cannot continue to ignore the tragic plight of nursing home residents without shouldering much of the blame for their mistreatment and death.
Richard T. Moore
The writer is a former Massachusetts state senator and former Senate chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing.