The coronavirus pandemic has affected millions of people around the world, overwhelming health systems, disrupting supply chains, and upending economics. But COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, has taken a particularly heavy toll on elderly people living in nursing homes, who are more likely to experience severe symptoms and who need a very special level of care.
As part of our global response to COVID-19, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is prioritizing care and technical support in nursing homes in Belgium, France, Italy, Portugal, Spain, and Switzerland, where as many as one in three residents have died from the disease.
“Too many people have been dying alone.”
Nursing homes are not hospitals, and most are not medically prepared to meet the challenges of the pandemic. Acknowledging the complexity of this extraordinary situation, in MSF’s experience, a variety of factors have led to the devastation caused by COVID-19 in these communities: The particular vulnerability of the residents, who are elderly and often frail and who need assistance with daily activities; little outbreak preparedness; little to no epidemiological surveillance; inadequate infection prevention and control; an increased workload for staff, coupled with decreased staff numbers due to people falling sick or self-isolating; and inadequate isolation of residents infected with the coronavirus.