MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - 34 more nursing homes in Alabama are set to receive point-of-care or rapid COVID-19 testing machines.
John Matson, communications director for the Alabama Nursing Home Association, said the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has plans to ship the machines to all 231 nursing homes in Alabama and all 15,000 plus nursing homes across the country by mid-October.
CMS sent its first shipment of 44 machines to Alabama in July. This distribution of 34 machines is the second allotment. That means 78 of the total 231 nursing homes in the state have already received, or are waiting to receive, the machines.
“We can only treat what we know, and if we’re waiting five, six, seven days sometimes for a laboratory test to come back that hurts our ability to be able to properly treat the resident or properly treat the employee,” Matson said. “So having these on site, if we can get a test back in 15 to 20 minutes, that puts us so much further ahead of the game than having to wait on a laboratory test turn around.”
The machines can give COVID-19 test results in a matter of minutes, but they do have an error rate of about 12 to 20 percent.
"They have told us that these machines have a 12 to 20 percent error rate and that is concerning," Matson said. "However, CMS has ensured us on a national conference call that if you receive a positive test off of one of these point-of-care machines, you can be guaranteed almost that it's positive. If someone tests negative you need to follow that up with a laboratory test to confirm that person is negative or to see if they may be positive."
Nursing homes in Alabama and across the globe continue to be a hot spots for the virus.
According to the Alabama Department of Public Health, between July 3 and August 3 there was a total of 597 COVID-19 deaths in Alabama. Of those deaths, 212 were residents in Long Term Care facilities. That means just over 35 percent of total deaths in the last month were nursing homes residents.
"We know and we have known since the beginning of the pandemic that we care for the most vulnerable population to COVID-19. People who are elderly and people who have multiple medical conditions," said Matson. "This gives us the ability to test much quicker when we need to."
Matson said nursing homes are still waiting on some guidance from CMS so employees know exactly when and how they are supposed to use the machines.
"When CMS rolled this out, they told us they could have taken a lot longer to get this 'perfect' but they decided to go ahead and start shipping machines so they can start arriving in nursing homes and then their regulations and guidance will catch up to the machines," Matson said.
For more information on the machines CMS is sending to nursing homes:
Below is a list of the 34 nursing homes set to receive machines: