Oregon lawmakers press for more testing supplies for long-term care facilities

Oregon lawmakers press for more testing supplies for long-term care facilities

WASHINGTON (KTVZ) -- Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., on Friday led members of Oregon’s congressional delegation—including Sen. Ron Wyden and Reps. Earl Blumenauer, Suzanne Bonamici, Peter DeFazio and Kurt Schrader—in pushing the Trump administration to help meet Oregon’s urgent need for critical coronavirus testing supplies at long-term care facilities.

In a letter to U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma, the delegation echoed the governor’s request for increase coronavirus testing supplies, in order to test all 60,000 residents and health care personnel in the state’s long-term care facilities.

“To date, Oregon continues to be one of several states with increases in COVID-19 cases within the current testing capacity,” the delegation wrote. “Recent outbreaks at food processing facilities and nursing homes alike have highlighted the need to scale up testing for these key populations. Without additional federal resources, the state will struggle to contain outbreaks in long-term care facilities and workplaces. Increased infections in these settings will likely lead to further spread of COVID-19 in the state’s general public.”

“The state cannot implement their plan with the current limited supply of testing transport media and swabs,” they continued. “In May, Oregon received only a fraction of the swabs and units of transport media promised to the state by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Further delay of the distribution of these supplies will leave Oregon’s vulnerable nursing home community at risk of additional outbreaks.”

“These resources are critical in enacting the recommendations outlined in the CMS guidance document on reopening nursing homes and ensuring resident and worker safety at all of Oregon’s long-term care facilities,” they concluded.

The full letter can be found here and below.

June 12, 2020

The Honorable Alex M. Azar II

Secretary

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services

200 Independence Avenue, S.W.

Washington, D.C. 20201

The Honorable Seema Verma

Administrator

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

7500 Security Boulevard

Baltimore, MD 21244

Dear Secretary Azar and Administrator Verma,

We write regarding the state of Oregon’s urgent need for critical testing supplies at long-term care facilities as the state prepares to reopen consistent with federal recommendations.

On May 18, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a document titled Nursing Home Reopening Recommendations for State and Local Officials. This document provides recommendations for America’s nursing homes to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus within facilities, prevent a resurgence of cases among residents, and safely reinstate visitations and additional services. Among other provisions, the document recommends baseline testing of nursing facilities’ residents and health care personnel as a key strategy to ensure the safe reopening of these facilities.

To date, Oregon continues to be one of several states with increases in COVID-19 cases within the current testing capacity. Recent outbreaks at food processing facilities and nursing homes alike have highlighted the need to scale up testing for these key populations. Without additional federal resources, the state will struggle to contain outbreaks in long-term care facilities and workplaces. Increased infections in these settings will likely lead to further spread of COVID-19 in the state’s general public.

On June 9, Oregon’s Governor Kate Brown announced a plan to test all 60,000 residents and health care personnel in the state’s long-term care facilities. The state cannot implement their plan with the current limited supply of testing transport media and swabs. In May, Oregon received only a fraction of the swabs and units of transport media promised to the state by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Further delay of the distribution of these supplies will leave Oregon’s vulnerable nursing home community at risk of additional outbreaks.

We request that Oregon’s allocation for testing media and swabs be significantly increased. These resources are critical in enacting the recommendations outlined in the CMS guidance document on reopening nursing homes and. ensuring resident and worker safety at all of Oregon’s long-term care facilities.

CC:      Admiral Brett Giroir, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services

            Dr. Tammy Beckham, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services

            Mr. Mike O’ Hare, Federal Emergency Management Agency Region 10

Sincerely,