By GARRY RAYNO, InDepthNH.org
CONCORD — A legislative committee studying the safety of residents and staff at long-term care facilities plans to meet with advocates, industry officials and state agencies before issuing its final report in two months.
The committee will try to determine why patients in long-term care facilities and nursing homes comprise 81 percent of the 432 deaths from COVID-19 in the state, but only 30 percent of the infections.
Committee member Rep. Jerry Stringham, D-Lincoln, said he is concerned about the high death rate for long-term care residents in New Hampshire, noting it is double what it is in the rest of the world.
“Compare Lincoln, Nebraska versus New Hampshire, it’s a little over 1 percent (in Nebraska),” he noted, “but most of (New Hampshire’s) fatalities are coming from the long term-care facilities.”
The committee will also investigate the risk of suicide in the facilities as well as the availability of personal protective equipment and testing, infection control, staffing and human resource adequacy, and support and communication with federal and state agencies.
The newly elected chair of the study committee, Sen. Jon Morgan, D-Brentwood, said the legislation gives the committee wide latitude to gather data and testimony.
“We have a pretty wide area of places we can go,” Morgan told committee members. “We are looking for oil in a big field and have to know where to dig.”
Morgan said he expects to invite stakeholders from public and private facilities, state health and human services officials, AARP, and the Alzheimer’s Association to testify and provide information. Others include representatives for care providers and advocacy organizations such as NH Legal Assistance and the National Association on Mental Illness.
Committee member Sen. Ruth Ward, R-Stoddard, said she participates in the Monadnock health-care group and all of the members’ discussions are about staffing and who is available.
How to find licensed nursing assistants and how they are not available is most of the discussion, she said.
Ward suggested the committee review the training programs available and the work they are doing to provide additional trained staff.
Another committee member Rep. Paul Berch, D-Westmoreland, noted the committee does not have much time to do its work with a Nov.1 deadline.
He noted writing the final report will take a couple of weeks.
“That’s a pretty short amount of time to deal with a very large and important subject to all of us and our constituents,” Berch said.
The committee will meet again in two weeks, Sept. 17 at 1 p.m., and will be meeting weekly after the next meeting, said Morgan.
Garry Rayno may be reached at email@example.com.