• The Star Staff

Gov’t blasted for lagging effort to test for COVID-19 in long-term care homes

By John McPhaul


Reps. Jesús Manuel Ortiz, Carlos Bianchi Angleró and candidate for an at-large seat in the House of Representatives, Gabriel López Arrieta, called on the government Sunday to reveal the status of the effort to test for the coronavirus in long-term care homes for older adults, at a time when COVID-19 infections are increasing and cases have been confirmed in some of those facilities.

“It is known to all that the population most at risk in this pandemic is the elderly. Having carried out tests in only 19 percent of the long-term care centers two months after announcing the initiative is an act of high irresponsibility and inefficiency,” Ortiz González said in a written statement. “Failure to do their job prevents the authorities from knowing the possible risk to which our older adults are exposed. The government has to explain the status of this operation and its strategy for protecting that population.”

Bianchi Angleró, meanwhile, emphasized that “the handling of this situation by the government has been at least an act of total disregard for the lives of its most vulnerable citizens.”

“The population in long-term care centers is one of great fragility and it is a captive population, so establishing a plan for carrying out these tests and establishing an effective protocol for proper management should not be so complex,” he said. “[Failure to do so] only shows a lack of will.”

López Arrieta stated that “the most unusual thing of all is that there are the resources, the personnel and the protocols to attend to these cases in a planned and scientific way, and the ineptitude of the central government is once again evident with the most vulnerable.”

“On January 19, they fired the Secretary of the Family Department and since then it has seemed like this agency no longer exists,” he added. “Again, we are talking about the lives of the most vulnerable, who are our elderly people.”

On April 19, Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced announced that, from that date, COVID-19 tests would be conducted in nursing homes (institutions and homes) throughout the island, for both residents and employees, by the Elder Justice Task Force.

However, as recently as July 6, health adviser Idania Rodríguez, an epidemiologist, said that of the 850 long-term care centers licensed by the Department of the Family, the government has done screening tests in 162. This represents only 19 percent of total facilities.