Task force on the limited reopening of long-term care facilities to hold meeting

Reporter: Anika Henanger Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:
In this Monday, June 22, 2020 photo, Dolores Reyes Fernández, 61, holds the hands of her father José Reyes Lozano, 87, for the first time in nearly four months as visits resume to a nursing home in Barcelona, Spain. At the height of Spain’s coronavirus outbreak, nursing homes locked out visitors to try to shield their residents from the virus killing so many elderly people. One home in Barcelona has allowed family visits to resume through plastic screens. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

The Task Force on the Safe and Limited Re-Opening of Long-Term Care Facilities met Friday.

There is finally hope for people not allowed to see their loved ones living at a nursing home or assisted-living facility.

“This is incredibly difficult for me,” caregiver Mary Daniel said.

From the start, Daniel urged everyone to move quickly. She got a job as a dishwasher at the memory care unit where her husband lived when the state cut off their visits.

“Are we ever gonna get anywhere in expressing to you our desperation and our helplessness and our hopelessness,” Daniel said.

On the table is an essential caregiver program, where one or two people would be allowed to visit.

“We believe it’s a good way to get started with limited visits of limited people who have a consistent record of being that caregiver,” Daniel said.

Other ideas include specific rooms or even outside visiting areas, visitor testing, face mask and social distancing requirements and, with precautions, allowing barbers and stylists back in.

“It is an incredibly desperate position to be in because our goal, my goal, is to get us back to our loved ones,” Daniel said. “It’s five months, and there are people dying today right now … from failure to thrive.”

The task force will meet again next Tuesday and make recommendations. Gov. Ron DeSantis said he wants to make this happen.

The governor ordered a stop to all visitations to nursing homes and long-term care facilities five months ago Friday. Even if he gets recommendations next week as scheduled, DeSantis has not yest set a timetable for when he and the state will allow visitors again.

The meeting was streamed and made available via The Florida Channel HERE.

More information on the Task Force can be found HERE. And for an agenda of the past meeting click HERE.

Public comment was available following the meeting through an online portal, which can be found HERE. Floridians are encouraged to submit their ideas regarding the safe and limited re-opening of Florida’s long-term care facilities.

Members of the Task Force on the Safe and Limited Re-Opening of Long-Term Care Facilities are below: 

Mary Daniel, Caregiver

Mary Daniel is married to her husband Steve who has early onset Alzheimer’s disease and resides in a memory care unit of a nursing home. When visitation to long-term care facilities was suspended due to COVID-19, Mary reached out to Rosecastle staff and asked if she could volunteer or get a job at the care center just for the opportunity to see her husband of 24 years in person again. She was hired as a dishwasher and has been working with other families to come up with creative solutions to lessen the burden of isolation during the current pandemic.

Mary Mayhew, Secretary, Agency for Health Care Administration

Mary Mayhew is Secretary of the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration. In this role, Mary leads a $29.4 billion health care enterprise, representing close to 31% of Florida’s total state budget, and is responsible for health policy and planning for the State of Florida. As Secretary, she administers the state’s Medicaid program to ensure the comprehensive healthcare needs of close to 4 million Floridians are met every month. Additionally, her oversight extends to the licensure and regulation of over 50,000 health care facilities across the 3rd largest state in the nation, and is charged with promoting the transparency of consumer health care information through the Agency’s Florida Center for Health Information and Transparency.

Richard Prudom, Secretary, Florida Department of Elder Affairs

Richard Prudom currently serves as Secretary for the Florida Department of Elder Affairs, the State Unit on Aging, whose mission is to help Florida’s 5.5 million elders remain healthy, safe, and independent. Secretary Prudom has more than 30 years in executive leadership with the State of Florida where he has worked to develop, implement, and lead public policies and programs that improve the lives of Florida families. Since 2011, he has served at the Department of Elder Affairs as Deputy Secretary, Chief of Staff, and Chief Financial Officer.

Dr. Scott Rivkees, State Surgeon General, Florida Department of Health

Dr. Rivkees currently serves as Florida’s Surgeon General. As Surgeon General, Dr. Rivkees also serves as state health officer for the Florida Department of Health. In this capacity, he oversees the operations of the state health office in Tallahassee, 67 county health departments, 22 area offices for the Division of Children’s Medical Services, 12 regional offices for the Division of Medical Quality Assurance, nine area offices for the Division of Disability Determinations and four public health laboratories.

Gail Matillo, President and CEO, Florida Senior Living Association

As the Association’s President/CEO, Gail Matillo is responsible for directing the association and identifying policy objectives that support Florida Senior Living Association’s mission, vision and growth. Previously, she spent more than two years as the State Housing Director with the Florida Department of Elder Affairs and more than 18 years with the Florida Association of Homes and Services for the Aging, now LeadingAge Florida, as the Director of Housing and Professional Development. Gail has a master’s degree in public administration, and a bachelor’s degree in business and health care administration.

Emmett Reed, Executive Director, Florida Health Care Association

Emmett Reed currently serves as the Executive Director for the Florida Health Care Association (FHCA), the state’s first and largest advocacy organization for long-term care providers and the residents under their care.

Michelle Branham, Vice President of Public Policy, Alzheimer’s Association

Michelle Branham is vice president of public policy for the Alzheimer’s Association. She currently serves as co-chair of the State Health Improvement Plan (SHIP) Priority 9 and the Trust for America’s Health Advisory Council. Previously, she was a senior vice president of marketing for Adventure Holdings. Branham earned her bachelor’s degree in political science from Stetson University and her master’s degree in theological studies and human relations from Emory University. In August 2019, Governor DeSantis appointed her to serve on the Alzheimer’s Disease Advisory Committee.

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