Eight North Alabama nursing homes to receive rapid COVID-19 testing machines

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala – The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has expanded its list of nursing homes to be allocated rapid COVID-19 testing machines. The updated list now includes eight nursing homes in North Alabama.

Those nursing homes are located in Madison, Limestone, Colbert, Lauderdale, Marshall and Morgan Counties.

The facilities receiving the devices include:

  • Brookshire Healthcare Center in Huntsville
  • Windsor House in Huntsville
  • Senior Rehab & Recovery Center at Limestone Health Facility in Athens
  • Mitchell-Hollingsworth Nursing & Rehab Center in Florence
  • Cottage of the Shoals in Tuscumbia
  • Falkville Healthcare Center
  • Decatur Health & Rehab in Morgan County
  • Albertville Nursing Home

John Matson, Alabama Nursing Home Association Spokesperson, says the nursing homes should receive the rapid testing machines within the next couple weeks.

Last month, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced that every skilled nursing facility across the country would receive a point-of-care device. At that time it said that the machines were going to be sent to hot spots across the nation to improve providers’ ability to stop the spread of COVID-19. At that time 44 nursing homes in Alabama located in Jefferson, Lee, and Montgomery counties were allocated the device.

An additional 34 Alabama facilities were allocated rapid COVID-19 testing machines last week, bringing the total number of facilities in the state to receive a device to 78.

CMS originally prioritized allocation of machines to 636 skilled nursing facilities across the country. The list now includes more than 2,000 facilities nation-wide.

According to the Centers for Medicaid, facilities are prioritized to receive the point-of-care device based on certain criteria including:

  • Three or more confirmed or suspected new cases of COVID-19 in the last week
  • At least one new COVID-19 case in the last week after having zero previous COVID-19 cases
  • Inadequate access to testing in the last week
  • At least one new resident death due to COVID-19 in the last week
  • At least one new confirmed or suspected COVID-19 case among staff in the last week

Matson could not say why CMS chose the eight nursing homes in North Alabama that are now being allocated the rapid testing machines.

According to the latest data available the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Cottage of the Shoals has as few as 5 confirmed COVID-19 cases among residents and no deaths. While Senior Rehab & Recovery Center at Limestone Health Facility and Falkville Healthcare Center reported more than 50 confirmed cases among residents. The Limestone County facility reported 4 deaths. The Morgan County facility reported 6.

Matson says they rapid tests have addition benefits besides being fast, they are also more cost effective. He says the cost of a test kit for these machines are between $25 and $30.

“Whereas sometimes the laboratory test can run you, we’ve heard from our members, somewhere between $70 and $150.”

But the machines also presents challenges. Matson says the have an error rate of 12-20 percent.

“CMS guidance then was that if this machine returns a positive result you can pretty much be guaranteed it is a positive case. If the result returns negative you need to confirm that with a laboratory based test,” he explained.

And besides recommendations about the error rate, Matson says there are other areas where facilities still need guidance.

“It’s very important that CMS provides us the regulations and guidelines to follow when we use these machines and let us know when we should use them and when we should seek a laboratory test,” Matson said.

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