Trump team relaxed training rules for nursing home staff just as COVID-19 hit: report

Trump team relaxed training rules for nursing home staff just as COVID-19 hit: report
Sgt. Nicholas Shepherd, a practical nursing specialist, assigned to Urban Augmentation Medical Task Force 352-2, performs a swab test on a nursing home worker at the Royal Suites Healthcare & Rehabilitation Center in Galloway Township, N.J., May 5, 2020. Testing residents in nursing homes is crucial due to the high infection rate of COVID-19. U.S. Northern Command, through U.S. Army North, remains committed to providing flexible Department of Defense support to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for the whole-of-nation COVID-19 response. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Miguel Pena)

Donald Trump’s ability, along with the rest of his Republican Party, to scare the traditionally more conservative senior demographic in our country to vote against their best interests has been waning. This has happened in no small part due to his abject incompetence and the increasingly apocalyptic world conditions that have been created by the Republican-led government. One of the greatest issues facing conservatives is that the COVID-19 pandemic, our response, and our continuing failures, are fundamentally baked into the Republican Party’s ideology.

This means that even after the Trump administration failed to prevent the spread of the 2019 novel coronavirus to U.S. shores, and even after the Trump administration failed to retain and provide the much needed, and essential, stockpiles of protective equipment and medical supplies, and even after the Trump administration failed to responsibly inform the public on how best to combat this virus, conservatives continue to get everything wrong. Politico reports on one such policy move, where the Trump administration, using the disaster-level domestic problem of COVID-19, waived federal rules that required nurse’s aides to receive at least 75 hours of training before being hired to help in places like nursing homes. Instead, one need only complete an eight-hour online “training program,” to get the new, and poorly salaried position of “temporary nurse aide.”

Critics of this move point out that not only is this something that nursing home industry lobbyists wanted for the purpose of union busting and higher profit margins, with almost half of COVID-19 related deaths in the U.S. connected to nursing home staff and residents, the results have not been good for anyone. Jesse Martin, vice president of the SEIU in Connecticut, told Politico that the excuse of needing more nursing home staff is meaningless if training is lacking. “You have PPE, you have infection control procedures. Putting someone brand new into the care setting with Covid is a recipe for disaster."

Politico explains that on top of it all, the eight-hour training and test program is a joke, easily gamed by looking online for answers. According to the news outlet it took one of their reporters “less than 40 minutes,” to receive their temporary nurse’s certificate. States accepting this current 8-hour training program include Delaware, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, and West Virginia. And according to the American Health Care Association (AHCA)—that provides the training—Alabama, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Georgia, Kansas, Mississippi, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia accept the training but “Additional training or other actions may be required.” Politico reports that the “additional” requirements in many of those states do not mean much in the way of training.

A spokesperson for the AHCA tried to hide behind the very dangerous work that many people, including those taking low pay to work as ”temporary nurses” at these facilities, saying that “We owe a debt of gratitude to any individual from any occupation who is willing to step forward and put their own lives on the line to contribute to making a difference in the lives of residents.” But the fact of the matter is that the nursing home industry has relied on underpaying staffs for decades and this has meant staff working multiple jobs “to make ends meet, which exposes them to a wider range of potential infections.”

However, after all of this is said and done, whether or not these widespread waivers to the nursing home industry are helpful or not, the problem our country is facing is systemic. There are not enough trained staff to properly care for the most vulnerable members of our community. This is an issue that existed before COVID-19, has become exacerbated by the pandemic, and will remain well after the worst of the virus has passed. Using nursing homes as hospitals is a symptom of our country’s weak infrastructure, and creating waivers to make it easer to hide deaths is what monsters do.

Instead of conceding under the guise of a very real emergency, the Trump administration and other conservatives have leaned into its misanthropic brand and seems to believe that the quicker they can kill or incapacitate the oldest members of our country, the better off their chances will be in November.

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