Colorado veterans homes followed COVID rules, audit finds

An audit of Colorado’s five veterans community living centers found they complied with the state’s rules on COVID-19 testing and training, which may have contributed to their lower rate of cases.

The audit doesn’t directly state whether all measures were effective, but it did note that the virus didn’t spread as widely in veterans facilities as it did in other nursing homes, and didn’t recommend that the Colorado Department of Human Services make any changes.

About 4.1% of residents in the five veterans’ homes were infected, compared to an average of 16.3% of residents in 648 long-term care facilities chosen as comparisons. The audit didn’t compare COVID-19 deaths between the two types of facilities.

That doesn’t mean the centers performed perfectly. In separate reports, state inspectors found four of the five centers had at least one violation, with insufficient handwashing or residents not wearing masks coming up most often. Most long-term care facilities serving the general public also were dinged at least once since regulators started conducting more-frequent inspections focused on infection control.

The five facilities, which offer long-term care and short-term rehabilitation to veterans and certain family members, are:

  • Veterans Community Living Center at Fitzsimons, Aurora
  • Colorado Veterans Community Living Center at Homelake, Monte Vista
  • Colorado State Veterans Nursing Home, Rifle
  • Bruce McCandless Colorado State Veterans Nursing Home, Florence
  • Spanish Peaks Veterans Community Living Center, Walsenburg

They reported a combined 174 cases and 58 deaths among residents, and 266 cases among staff.

All staffers were tested weekly, as required, and those who tested positive weren’t allowed to work, the auditors reported. They looked at a sample of screening forms that employees filled out at the beginning of their shifts, and found evidence that 99% were screened every time. (Two forms were missing.)

The audit looked at a sample of 25 employees who tested positive, and found none worked for 10 days following their test, which was the rule.

The homes also complied with requirements that they train employees about the COVID-19 rules, and monitor whether they were properly using protective equipment, disinfecting all equipment and taking other precautions. The audit didn’t look into how employees responded to the training.

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