Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Visitors are kept at a distance Wednesday at Sancta Maria Nursing Facility in the Cambridge Highlands. (Photo: Marc Levy)

Nursing homes across the state are running low on masks, gowns, gloves and other equipment to protect employees from getting infected with Covid-19 and potentially spreading it to residents, the head of the major organization representing the industry said Wednesday. One facility in Cambridge has posted an appeal for donations on its website.

“We currently have enough [personal protective equipment] to care for our residents and keep our staff safe, however, due to unprecedented global demand for protective equipment that was previously readily available, the timing of resupply shipments has become difficult to plan for,” said the message from Cambridge Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, on Dana Street.

Despite “taking advantage of every opportunity to safely conserve PPE,” the nursing home said, “we need more supplies as soon as possible to continue to care for our residents safely and keep our staff safe.” It asked for donations from the public of N95 masks, surgical or procedure masks, gloves, medical face shields, surgical gowns and alcohol-based hand sanitizer. The plea is on the nursing home’s website at

Tara Gregorio, president of Massachusetts Senior Care Organization, which represents almost 400 nursing homes, assisted living centers and other facilities serving elders, said the group’s most recent survey of members “shows that most facilities lack essential supplies and could be running out of them shortly.” The list of needed equipment includes “normal surgical masks, N-95 masks, gowns, gloves, face shields, thermometer covers and alcohol-based sanitizing gels,” she said.

“During this extremely critical time when these supplies are essential to prevent the spread of Covid-19, it is imperative that supplies are readily available for our frontline staff,” Gregorio said in an email. “We continue to work aggressively to secure the necessary personal protective equipment that is urgently needed to protect both our residents and our staff.”

Nursing home concerns

The warning came amid recent reports of outbreaks and deaths of residents in several nursing homes, including 15 deaths at the Holyoke Soldiers Home, at least six from the Covid-19 coronavirus. Employees told The Boston Globe they had to fight to get protective equipment.

The state Department of Public Health has come under pressure to disclose the number of infections and deaths among nursing home residents, who are especially vulnerable because of their age, medical condition and relatively crowded living situation. Health and Human Services Secretary Mary Lou Sudders said Tuesday that the state intends to provide more data.

The Cambridge Public Health Department has so far not published a count of Covid-19 infections in the city’s three nursing homes and three assisted living centers: Cambridge Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, Sancta Maria Nursing Facility, Neville Place and Neville Place Assisted Living, Youville House and The Cambridge Homes. Cambridge Day has several times asked for a count of infections in nursing homes and among homeless individuals and either didn’t get an answer or was told the request is under consideration.

Search for data

On Wednesday, after being told that Cambridge Day had called the six facilities in an attempt to get information, health department spokeswoman Susan Feinberg said: “To date, the Cambridge Public Health Department has not received notification from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health of any positive cases among residents of long-term care or assisted living facilities in Cambridge.”

Cambridge Day reached Sancta Maria, Youville House and Cambridge Rehabilitation; messages left with The Cambridge Homes and the management company for the two Neville Place facilities were not returned. A recording at a phone extension for Covid-19 updates at Sancta Maria said there were no cases among residents, and a manager at Youville House said the assisted living residence had no cases.

An official at Cambridge Rehabilitation refused to provide information. He said it would violate federal privacy rules. “You’re asking me to cross a line,” he said, adding that “I’m not looking to cause panic.” The man hung up while the reporter was asking his name.