Panel hones recommendations on Florida nursing home visits

Jacksonville woman who helped inspire panel says they're making progress


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – It’s unlikely that Florida will mandate all nursing homes reopen to all visitors any time soon.

Instead, a panel appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis discussed draft recommendations Tuesday to “strongly encourage access” and to “limit barriers to visitation” for two groups: “essential caregivers” and “compassionate visitors.” The recommendations also include that those visitors be tested for COVID-19, consistent with facility testing policies for staff members.

But Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Mary Mayhew, who chairs the governor’s Task Force on the Safe and Limited Re-Opening of Long Term Care Facilities, did not guarantee that the state would provide facilities with the testing kits necessary to test visitors.

“Yes, perhaps there’s some opportunity potentially in the short term, but I want to refrain from being too definitive about that because of the costs,” Mayhew said when task force member Gail Matillo, president and CEO of the Florida Senior Living Association, asked about testing supplies and whether they would be provided by the state.

Mayhew added, “Ideally, we would want the essential caregivers, the compassionate caregivers, to think about how they could access testing on their own to support that requirement.”

A Jacksonville woman, whose personal story of taking a job as a dishwasher at her husband’s memory care facility helped inspire the creation of the panel, posted on her Facebook group on Tuesday saying the panel was making progress.

“We basically approved an Essential Caregiver designation for those who provide essential care, like dressing, bathing and feeding. Many of us already qualify. Others can join us by doing some essential service for your loved one. And if you can’t or don’t qualify, then we’re working on outside and even inside visitation specifics,” Daniel wrote.

Daniel, an advocate for caregivers across the state and country, said more specifics need to be ironed out.

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