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OUR TAKE: Health Equity

By Kathy Royer RN, BA, MBA, DMin, CHPN, CHPCA, CEHCH, OCHCH Hospice Regulatory Director

During the COVID-19 Pandemic, our world has changed in ways we would never have imagined, some change for the good and some change not for the good.  For Home Health, Palliative Care and Hospice providers one change that has presented one of the biggest health care challenges has been restricted access to patients in Skilled Nursing Facilities, and Assisted Living Facilities. 

In early spring, as the COVID-19 pandemic crisis grew at alarming rates, facilities began restricting visitors in an effort to control the spread of the virus. But with those restrictions, Home Health, Palliative Care and Hospice staff were also restricted access to the patients they were caring for in the facilities.  Denying these patients care has been problematic on many levels:

  • The patient has chosen the healthcare service as a part of their treatment and plan of care
  • The patient will not receive the specialized care they are entitled to
  • Reduction of Home Health and Hospice services further isolates SNF and ALF patients

The unique part of care delivery represented through skilled care in Home Health and pain and symptom management in Palliative Care and Hospice cannot be replaced through any other healthcare service line.

There have been many studies which address the negative impact of the pandemic which include social isolation and the effects of restricted healthcare provider access in facilities.  In fact, the CDC recently addressed restricted access to resources on the CDC website:

Health Equity: Promoting Fair Access to Health

The CDC explains that health equity is when everyone has the opportunity to be as healthy as possible. Long-standing systemic health and social inequities have put many racial and ethnic minority groups at increased risk of getting sick and dying from COVID-19. To stop the spread of COVID-19 and move toward greater health equity, we must work together to ensure resources are available to maintain and manage physical and mental health, including easy access to information, affordable testing, and medical and mental health care.

At OCHCH, we are concerned about restricted access and the negative impact on patient’s long term health, especially as it relates to Home Health, Palliative Care and Hospice patients.  To that end, OCHCH is working on HB 770- which is a bill that would permit essential caregiver access to facilities.  A survey about restricted access was sent on the List Serve last week.  We invite you to take the brief survey by close of business December 8, 2020.  The survey will provide OCHCH with feedback as we work with legislators on this important piece of legislation.