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State says nursing homes underreported more than 600 deaths

Deaths were included in overall COVID-19 death total
Study: Long-term care costs continue to rise
Posted at 6:57 PM, Feb 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-17 19:43:18-05

INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana State Health Commissioner said Wednesday that the state has discovered 273 long-term care facilities did not report 660 COVID-19 deaths.

Dr. Kris Box said they made the finding while reviewing COVID-19 cases and cross-referencing them with death records, and determined 660 deaths had not been tied to a nursing home facility.

Dr. Box emphasized the deaths were included in the state’s COVID-19 death total, which is currently 11,825.

“I want to be clear, these deaths are already a part of our overall statewide dashboard,” Box said. “These are not new deaths. All of these deaths have already been accounted for in statewide totals.”

Dr. Box said the Indiana State Department of Health is matching the deaths with long-term care facilities and they will be added to the LTC dashboard tomorrow.

“It appears most facilities misreported 1 or 2 deaths, 32 facilities misreported 6 to 10 and a handful of facilities appeared to have misreported greater than 10 deaths,” Box said.

Box said most of the deaths not reported happened in November and December, but range from April 2020 to January 2021.

5,212 residents have died at Indiana nursing homes, records show, but Wednesday’s announcement will bring the total to more than 5,872.

In April, the state issued a directive to nursing homes to report COVID-19 deaths and cases to the state.

On May 17, the federal government also issued a similar requirement.

Dr. Box said some of the Indiana facilities were reporting to the federal government, but not the state.

“We will be reaching out to facilities to determine if there were barriers to doing so and we will continue to work toward long-term care deaths are reported in a timely manner,” Dr. Box said. “Our LTC residents have borne the heaviest burden in this pandemic. It’s simply heartbreaking to see the percentage of deaths attributable to these residents.

Zach Cattell, president of the Indiana Health Care Association / Indiana Center for Assisted Living (IHCA/INCAL), issued the following statement:

IHCA/INCAL has long supported COVID-19 data transparency and accuracy and only learned today of the data discrepancies reported by the IDH during the Governor’s press conference. In a brief discussion with the IDH since the press conference, it is unclear if the issues regarding allocation of the deaths to the LTC dashboard were a result of reporting issues at the facility level or issues with attribution of already reported data at the state level. IHCA/INCAL and LTC facilities will work with the state to determine the root cause of any issues and help implement necessary corrections. Data reporting has been a complex subject, as there are currently six data reporting systems for all COVID-19 related data. For the reporting of deaths to the state, there is both an online form and a phone number, and for reporting of deaths to the federal government, there is yet another, separate system.

IHCA/INCAL is the state’s largest trade association and advocacy group representing for-profit and not-for-profit nursing homes, as well as assisted living communities and independent living. The association provides education, information, and advocacy for health care providers, consumers, and the workforce on behalf of its more than 444-member facilities.

Sarah Waddle, AARP Indiana State Director, issued the following statement:

COVID-19 is devastating Hoosiers that live and work in nursing homes and long-term care facilities. We’re concerned that facilities are still struggling with basic reporting after nearly a year. Hoosiers deserve access to this information. AARP Indiana will continue to push for transparency, and we are glad that our public health officials were open about this reporting error and that they are taking action to correct it.

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