SACRAMENTO—AB 2644 by Assemblymember Jim Wood (D-Santa Rosa), has introduced a bill to help protect residents and health care workers in skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) from the spread of COVID-19 and other communicable diseases by increasing reporting requirements.
“As of July 20, with 95 percent of skilled nursing facilities reporting, the Department of Public Health’s website states that 2,953 skilled nursing facility residents and 104 health care workers have tragically lost their lives due to COVID-19,” said Wood. “That’s nearly 40 percent of the people who have died from COVID-19 in California, and reveals the significant weaknesses in the reporting system currently required by these facilities.”
AB 2644, which is schedule to be heard in the Senate’s Health Committee on August 1, requires SNFs, during a declared emergency due to a communicable disease, to report each disease-related death to the state Department of Public Health (DPH) within 24 hours and requires DPH to make the total number of disease-related deaths available on its internet website on a weekly basis.
“This data, which will be reported in a manner that protects an individual’s privacy, will help the state receive more timely data helping us respond much more quickly to the spread of communicable diseases, such as COVID-19 and save lives,” said Wood.
Additionally, AB 2644 will make permanent, in law, current DPH guidance that facilities have on staff a full-time dedicated Infection Preventionist who has received formal training in infection prevention and control.
“The close living quarters in these facilities makes residents and health care workers extremely vulnerable to infectious diseases and we know that the use of best practices for infection control can reduce their chances of becoming ill and they deserve that protection,” said Wood.
The bill also clarifies that SNFs cannot prevent a Long-Term Care Ombudsman from entering a facility.
“The long-term care ombudsmen are there to protect residents, some of whom have no family and few, if any, visitors,” said Wood. “These folks are our most vulnerable and we need to do everything we can to make sure that their stay in a skilled nursing facility, however long, protects them the best way we know how.”
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