Profitable, Deplorable - 27 East


Southampton Press / Opinion / Letters / 1699257

Profitable, Deplorable

Let’s review: The people most likely to die from COVID-19 are the elderly and those who have underlying health conditions. Everybody knows that.

So, in what universe was it even considered, much less required, that patients who were released from hospitals who were still infectious must be accepted by nursing homes? This was the State Department of Health mandate.

A continual parade of highly contagious, virus-shedding individuals was channeled into nursing homes, where elderly parents and grandparents with underlying health conditions live. “Shameful” is too mild a description for this immoral edict issued by our government.

That’s the injury. Here’s the insult: When these residents, parents, grandparents, and wives and husbands get sick, they are ousted from their rooms and relocated to the “COVID-positive section” — just down the hall. The remaining roommate automatically gets quarantined, and the vacated bed gets filled!

They must endure isolation from their peers and forgo recreational activities. Wake up, transfer to chair in room, watch TV in room, eat in room, back to bed. Every day. Despicable.

What does New York State gain? A huge source of beds in a setting where residents are largely forgotten and have little advocacy. Providentially, in a nursing home, those extra beds keep reappearing, like a conveyor belt, as nannas and grandpas die. Apparently, this proves to be an irresistible way to offset the ever-looming threat of hospitals being overwhelmed.

How might the nursing homes benefit? Their population is being purged of the long-term residents, enabling them to pursue the more lucrative business model, which focuses on short-term rehab. When this is finally over, their capacity for turnover will have soared. But prior to relinquishing the dying, the nursing homes continue to promote and perform diagnostic tests and procedures, most of them moot by now but still billable.

Imagine performing X-rays, drawing blood and recommending a bowel procedure for a resident who had stopped eating and was a candidate for a morphine drip! This human revenue source hadn’t been seen by a doctor, was pronounced dead the next day by a nurse, and had her death certificate signed virtually. Profitable. Deplorable. Ongoing.

I have gained this perspective from events I witnessed during the last days of my mother’s life in a nursing home. I am deeply grateful that I was permitted special access and for the acts of kindness and courage extended to myself and to my mom. My outrage is not directed at the angels in the trenches but at the institutions that gave themselves license to issue a death sentence to the most vulnerable and the least likely to resist.

So, let’s review: We have opportunity. We have motive. And we have dead bodies. Where’s the justice?

Anita Guarino

Sag Harbor


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