A couple of months ago I suggested to the McHenry County Board of Health that it should request authority from the Illinois General Assembly to regulate nursing homes.
At that time 81% of Covid-19 deaths in McHenry County had occurred in long-term care facilities (now it’s 78%), while the figure was 55% statewide.
The Illinois Department of Public Health obviously failed big time in protecting these vulnerable residents.
When it comes to the state providing services to McHenry County, we often come off on the short end of the stick.
Although we are the sixth largest county, for instance, there was no State Police presence in the 1990’s until I brought up the subject in an Appropriations Committee meeting.
Another example: during the 1970’s the McHenry County Probation Office ran a quite successful foster care program. One Hebron couple was even featured on a national television program for the huge number of children they had fostered.
Along came a recession during Governor Jim Thompson’s administration and DCFS Director Greg Coler decided to eliminate funding for McHenry County.
I think most would agree that did not improve foster care.
So, I’m not surprised that nursing home inspections in McHenry County were lax.
The real question is what can be done to prevent similar future problems.
Here is discussion I found in the July minutes of the Board of Health:
“Dr. [William] Stinson remarked that he was not surprised that long term care facilities made up 81% of deaths from COVID19 in McHenry County in comparison to 55% statewide as was stated in Cal Skinner’s letter.
“Mr. [Kyle] Marcussen said he was surprised that the deaths were so high in long term care facilities in the county and was impressed that Valley Hi had no deaths at their facility.
“Ms. McCann said Valley Hi had a COVID-19 plan right away.
“Some of the possible reasons for the higher numbers were briefly discussed.”
In August the discussion continued.
Dr. Stinson read a communication from Cal Skinner to board members regarding the regulation of long term care facilities.
Mr. Skinner would like the board to ask the General Assembly for concurrent regulatory power over the county’s long term care facilities
Mr. Skinner believes that if the McHenry County Department of Health and the leadership of Valley Hi were more involved, 90 lives of long term care facility residents would not have been lost.
Mr. Skinner also included a copy of a press release sent out by Governor Pritzker’s office regarding review of IDPH delays of complaint investigations at long term care facilities.
Ms. Karras said the Department’s role with long term care facilities are to be consultants.
We have no regulatory authority and IDPH states the Department should be consulted for infectious disease control.
Ms. Karras stated we have had a good relationship with Valley Hi.
A few years ago, Ms. Karras arranged through a grant to get some Valley Hi employees trained in infection control during a scabies outbreak.
They now have 3 employees trained and there are facilities that don’t have any trained personnel.
IDPH requires facilities to have designated personnel trained in infection control.
The failure was that IDPH did not make sure the state’s requirements were in place at the facilities and if they were aware of the lack of preparedness, didn’t help them to get prepared.
Ms. Karras also noted when the COVID-19 outbreak began, the facilities that were unprepared were the ones that had the highest amounts of deaths.
It was recommended that the Department speak with other counties and state representatives to hear their views of this suggestion.