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Maine DHHS Announces New Financial Support For Testing of Nursing Facility Staff

COVID TESTING
COVID TESTING(MGN)
Published: Nov. 18, 2020 at 4:49 PM EST
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AUGUSTA— The Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) announced today that it will provide additional financial support to nursing facilities for periodic COVID-19 testing of their staff.

Through MaineCare, DHHS will help to reimburse nursing facilities for their costs to conduct this surveillance testing using commercial laboratories. This investment of an estimated $8 million in State and Federal funds over the coming months will help protect residents and staff from the silent spread of this deadly disease.

The Department also announced that all licensed nursing facilities in Maine now have access to Connect to Care Jobs, a portal where facilities can connect with qualified job applicants. DHHS announced a pilot of the portal in September that has now been expanded statewide. Interested job applicants are encouraged to visit ConnecttoCareJobs.com. The portal is offered at no charge to job seekers in partnership with ADvancing States, a national organization of state aging and disability agencies. DHHS expects to expand the portal to additional long-term care settings in the near future.

“Providing expanded support for nursing facilities during this surge in COVID-19 in Maine is critical to help the hardworking frontline workers care for themselves and residents of nursing homes,” said DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew. “The financing and staffing resources add to the support Maine has offered to protect some of our most vulnerable residents.”

Since October, the federal government has required nursing facilities nationwide to conduct periodic testing of their staff. This testing requirement is more frequent in areas where the prevalence of COVID-19 is higher. Today’s announcement provides nursing facilities with financial support for the MaineCare share of that testing. This reimbursement will be available for periodic staff testing through commercial labs dating back to November 2, 2020 and through the duration of the public health emergency. DHHS additionally issued guidance in September to nursing facilities to assist them in meeting these requirements.

Surveillance testing involves testing individuals at regular increments in order to detect COVID-19 in a population.

In the event of at least one confirmed case of COVID-19 in staff or residents, nursing facilities must immediately conduct universal testing, which involves testing all staff and residents as soon as possible to determine the extent of the virus’ spread. DHHS supports universal testing in congregate settings, including nursing facilities, in these circumstances at no charge through the State Health and Environmental Testing Laboratory (HETL).

The additional MaineCare funding announced today complements separate federal funding for COVID-19 testing at nursing facilities. CMS recently announced that nursing facilities in Maine would receive $10.4 million to support additional staff and increased testing in the first round of a $5 billion allocation from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This funding can also support nursing facilities’ use of commercial laboratories for surveillance COVID-19 testing or the costs of transporting samples to HETL.

Additionally, the federal government has distributed rapid antigen tests directly to nursing facilities to support staff surveillance testing. Rapid antigen test results are available on site and do not require a laboratory.

According to CMS data, Maine’s rates of COVID-19 infections and deaths in nursing facilities are among the lowest in the nation. This follows numerous actions taken by DHHS to support the state’s nursing facilities, including issuing an emergency rule in April to further protect the health and safety of staff and residents against the spread of COVID-19 and being among the first states in the nation to support universal testing at nursing facilities when an outbreak of COVID-19 was confirmed. The State provides an emergency cache of PPE to facilities with outbreaks and provides same-day support and guidance.

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