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Maryland nursing home statistics lack needed context | READER COMMENTARY

Map of coronavirus cases in Maryland nursing homes
Map of coronavirus cases in Maryland nursing homes

Our hearts break daily as we see people of all ages fight for their lives against a virus they knew nothing about four months ago.

Nursing home health care workers alongside their hospital partners are proving themselves not just as essential workers, but frontline heroes. From managing a disease that can be spread without symptoms, to dealing with a shortage of adequate testing and personal protective equipment, to being forced because of this sinister virus to separate patients and residents from loved ones, the challenges are immense, unprecedented and heartbreaking. These health care heroes are truly going above and beyond to save lives.

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The public reporting of COVID-19 data associated with Maryland nursing homes, while important for transparency, misses critical context (“At least 6 Maryland nursing homes have 100 coronavirus cases, as data shows virus spreading through many facilities,” April 29). These statistics do not take in to account the total number of people receiving care, the total number of health care professionals providing care who are COVID-19 negative, or the fact that there are so many more recoveries than deaths.

All residents and patients in nursing homes have multiple pre-existing or chronic medical conditions and many of the staff providing care may have at least one condition themselves — that’s the battle our frontline heroes are up against. These facts are important.

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On any given day in a pre-COVID-19 world, there are about 28,000 nursing home beds and 7,000 hospital beds nearly all filled with people receiving quality care in Maryland. And approximately 30,000 nursing home employees and more than 100,000 hospital employees who provide that quality care.

A study published last week in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that among long-term care patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in New York, the majority had at least one chronic pre-existing condition, most often hypertension and diabetes, and 21 percent of those who were treated died. Deaths occur, unfortunately, even with the best patient care.

Today, as we fight COVID-19 in hospitals and nursing homes, more people — residents, patients, and staff — are recovering rather than dying.

Transparency, facts, and context are important. Most important, we must not lose sight of the key point that hospital and nursing home health care heroes are partnering to do all they can. Against the odds, they are slowly winning the battle against COVID-19.

Joseph DeMattos, Linthicum, and Bob Atlas, Elkridge

The writers are, respectively, president and CEO of the Health Facilities of Maryland and CEO of the Maryland Hospital Association.

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