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State fines long-term care facilities for not reporting vaccination rates

Photo: Pixabay

A month after Connecticut’s vaccine mandate for workers in long-term care facilities went into effect, the state notified 26 providers that they have been fined a combined $221,000 for not reporting their vaccination rates by the deadline.

The state Department of Public Health reported Thursday night that, as of last week, there were 59 facilities that submitted late reports but that officials decided to give them a week’s “grace period” to comply. Thirty-three facilities did comply within the grace period, and the state forgave more than $1.5 million in potential fines for those facilities.

The 26 that had still not reported and were penalized this week include nine managed residential communities, nine residential care homes, four assisted living facilities, three nursing homes and one chronic disease hospital.

One of the nursing homes that was fined $10,000 was the Ark Healthcare and Rehabilitation at St. Camillus on Elm Street in Stamford. Ark Administrator Reuven Fischer said Thursday the nursing home plans to appeal the fine and that it has always tried to comply with the governor’s executive orders regarding long-term care facilities.

“While we acknowledge there was a brief period of administrative delay in the official reporting of our data to the Department of Public Health, the facility has upheld the vaccination mandate with the utmost seriousness and diligence,” Fischer said in a statement to the CT Mirror.

“This administrative error in reporting was quickly corrected and in no way reflects the high level of staff vaccine compliance. To date, St. Camillus Center has 94% of its staff vaccinated, with the remaining staff, of which there are only a few, qualifying for exemptions as per the executive order,” Fischer added.

More fines coming?

There are still 122 facilities that have not reported anything to DPH, now a month after the deadline.

Beginning Nov. 1, facilities classified as non-reporters may be assessed on-going penalties, which will not include the 7-day grace period, according to the DPH. The agency estimates that non-reporters are subject to fines totaling $15 million collectively.

Many of those are managed residential communities that are affiliated with assisted living facilities and have staffs that overlap. A team from DPH has been sorting through them the past few weeks.

DPH is also reviewing the reporting status of all intermediate care facilities for individuals with intellectual disabilities, known as ICF/IID facilities, separately, since these facilities are also subject to a different executive order and may have already reported under it.

“We strongly urge facilities that have not yet reported to DPH their compliance with EO 13F to submit their attestation reports as soon as possible,” said DPH Commissioner Manisha Juthani in a statement Thursday night.

“The purpose of this vaccine mandate is to protect the health and safety of the patients and residents in long-term care as well as the health and safety of the staff, their families, and their co-workers. Reporting timely and accurately to DPH helps the state ensure that the long-term care industry is meeting this goal and brings confidence to the community that our most vulnerable citizens are safe.”

Less weight on administrative issues

Gov. Lamont’s executive order called for all long-term care facilities — including nursing homes, assisted living centers, residential care homes, chronic disease hospitals, intermediate care facilities and managed residential communities — to report the vaccine status of their staff as well any contractors that entered their buildings by Sept. 28 or face possible fines of up to $20,000 a day.

All employees of those facilities were required to be immunized against COVID-19 unless they obtained a religious or medical exemption.

Two weeks ago, health department officials acknowledged some of the underreporting “may have resulted from the decision by facilities [that] share buildings and staff to report all covered [long-term care] workers under a single facility so as not to double-count the number of workers subject to the order.”

The health department then revised its reporting system so facilities can clarify whether they are consolidating their data into a single report.

Connecticut Association of Healthcare Facilities President Matthew Barrett said that DPH data show on average 95% of nursing home staff are now vaccinated, which is among the highest rates in the nation.

“The numbers demonstrate overwhelming compliance with the vaccine policy objectives and that the few nursing fines are an outlier in what is clearly an enormously successful vaccine initiative,” Barrett said.

“Our association is recommending state regulators take a balanced approach to evaluating non-compliance issues which favors, focusses and weighs more heavily on the actual compliance with the policy goals and less weight on administrative reporting issues.”