Ok, here we are again, and this time I’m speaking up! As the CEO of Ohio Living, the state’s largest not-for-profit provider of life plan communities (senior living/long-term care), we are on the front lines of the COVID-19 battlefield. I’m frustrated and angry to say that we do not have enough protection.
As I type, our hero nurses and nursing assistants are at the bedside caring for our “greatest generation” in their reused masks and gowns while hospitals, through no fault of their own, are reportedly “flush” with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) inventory. Even though, as we care for the most compromised and — in my opinion, the most cherished — members of our society, we are simply unable to safely protect ourselves. Yes, the Ohio Department of Health, specifically Director of Health Dr. Amy Acton, has taken a very proactive role in protecting Ohioans, but even she is unable to effectuate change to ensure that all clinicians are protected – not just our hospital personnel.
From my perspective, as a board member for LeadingAge Ohio and LeadingAge – our national association, my heart bleeds for the pain and frustration my colleagues, and more directly their clinicians, are enduring across the country. God bless all of them! If statewide providers like Ohio Living are feeling this pain, how are smaller, single-site aging service providers able to effectively compete for supplies?
My call to action is clear: The federal and state government must address the disparity amongst hospitals and aging service providers and make sure that all clinicians are protected. We, aging service providers, are caring for the most vulnerable members of our society, 24/7, and we are last on the prioritization of PPE.
I certainly appreciate our business partners, specifically Medline, for doing everything possible to assist us in getting PPE supplies for our care needs. But, unfortunately, it’s not enough. My hope is that in the days and years ahead, we’ll be able to learn from this misplaced hierarchy of value and the aging service segment of our health care delivery system will be equally prioritized. For now, I’m going to praise our team at Ohio Living for leading the charge!
Laurence C. Gumina is CEO of Ohio Living.