May 4, 2020
Ten thousand deaths from Coronavirus have come in nursing homes—one fifth of all deaths in this country. The Wall Street Journal, which provided this report, says it is a gross undercount, since there is no real public accounting of what happened in the nursing homes. There is only one thing sure: there is a horrifying human waste.
Yes, part of the reason is that so many people in nursing homes are already fragile; many come in with serious illnesses. They are vulnerable.
That’s all the more reason there should be extra care and extra sanitary precautions in nursing homes. Plain human respect requires it. All the more so, because these are our elders, the people whose lives laid down the base on which all the rest of us exist today.
There should be trained staff in nursing homes, enough staff so they have the time to obey rules that could prevent the spread of infection—whether Coronavirus or the flu or just the “simple cold.” Staff in the nursing homes should have full access to protective equipment, preventing them from getting sick and from spreading disease from one patient to another.
But this is exactly what didn’t exist in so-called normal times in a very large number of nursing homes. So when Coronavirus hit, of course, it swept through them.
This disaster waiting to happen reflects what has happened to the nursing home “industry”: thousands of nursing homes have been gobbled up by private equity companies. Those financial wolves did to nursing homes what they did to retail outfits like Sears or J.C.Penney. They drained them of every bit of profit they could squeeze out. Every bit of protective equipment they didn’t buy, every nursing position they didn’t fill, every humanly fulfilling activity they suppressed meant more money in their pocket.
But the product in nursing homes is not washing machines or towels and clothes—it’s human beings, human beings whom private equity wolves considered disposable.
Private equity is just the latest variant of capitalist investment. But capitalism has always pushed to make more profit at the expense of people. And every level of government has been complicit with this functioning, including today in the nursing homes. Even now, as Coronavirus spreads through nursing homes, states are rushing to pass regulations providing the nursing home “industry” with immunity from prosecution and lawsuits. The same immunity deal was included in the federal “small business” loan program.
This is where American capitalism is taking us, back to a time when people whose working years had been used up were considered encumbrances on the economy, trash to be thrown out.