INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Indiana is now requiring long-term care facilities to designate staff to provide daily communication to residents and their designated representatives on total COVID-19 cases and deaths.
As of Friday, 260 residents of long-term care facilities have died of COVID-19. They makes up 32% of virus deaths statewide. Dr. Daniel Rusyniak, chief medical officer of Family and Social Services, said 85 facilities are reporting at least one death.
We still do not know all of the facilities with confirmed COVID-19 related deaths or cases because the state will not publish that information.
Dr. Rusyniak said the aggregate data will be collected every Friday and then posted to the state’s website the following Monday.
Over the past week, several people have reached out to FOX59 to say they are having a difficult time getting information on the total number of COVID-19 cases inside their loved one’s center.
Dr. Rusyniak said they worked closely with State Long-Term Care Ombudsman Lynn Clough to develop guidelines for when and how facilities will communicate their COVID-19 status with residents and representatives.
“I know how important it is for folks in the interest of what’s going on in a long-term care facility, particularly for people who have a loved one who lives or resides there,” he said.
Dr. Rusyniak explained facilities should tell residents and representatives the total number of cases and deaths as well as the actions they are taking to prevent the spread of the virus.
If families do not feel like they are getting this communication, the state asks you email firstname.lastname@example.org. Dr. Rusyniak said they will look into the matter and investigate it.
“By implementing this requirement, we are taking steps that exceed what the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Service is planning,” he said.
Ombudsman Clough advocates for thousands of long-term care facility residents across the state. She worked with FSSA and the Indiana State Department of Health on the new communications plan. While she understands the state’s position on publishing the names of facilities with cases, Clough said she still believes Indiana should release that information.
“If my parents were still in a nursing home, I would want to know what is going on,” she said. “But that is up to ISDH. They are in control right now regarding their guidance to facilities, and they are taking their guidance from CMS.”
Clough believes the state’s new plan will go a long way in facilitating the communication between the facilities and family members.
When asked why the state will not release the names, State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box said this is a personal thing between the facilities, residents and their families.
Last week, Governor Holcomb said he will not direct her to publish the names of facilities that are impacted.