‘We are playing with people’s lives’: RIHCA says nursing homes receiving inadequate, inaccurate testing


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ A group that represents nursing homes at the State House is sounding the alarm over COVID-19 testing, saying that delays in receiving results are threatening the lives of both residents and staff members.

Scott Fraser, president of the Rhode Island Health Care Association (RIHCA), says that since most coronavirus-related deaths in the state have been linked to nursing homes, testing for staff and residents should be made a priority.

“We’ve been experiencing more and more delays in getting the results back,” Fraser said. “On average, it’s taking seven days or more and it’s just not acceptable, because in seven days, a lot can happen.”

Fraser says they have reached out to the Rhode Island Department of Health and Gov. Gina Raimondo’s office in an effort to resolve the issue.

“For weeks, if not months, we have asked the state for rapid testing at nursing homes, for nursing homes to be given priority, and the state says all the right things, like ‘we support you’ and ‘we hear you’, but we’re still not there,” he said.

On top of those delays, Fraser says they’ve recently learned that some of the test results they’ve received haven’t been accurate.

“Several of our homes have been told that the positive results that came in may be incorrect,” Fraser said. “That they were part of a contaminated sample and that those positive cases might be negative.”

“We take staff off the floor, we close admissions, we stop visitation, and now we’re being told almost a week later, ‘Sorry, it was a contaminated sample.’ We are playing with people’s lives here,” he continued.

The bottom line, according to Fraser, is that the state’s elderly population needs to be given a higher priority, especially since they’re most susceptible to COVID-19.

“Rhode Island is always in the top three or four states for residents over 65,” Fraser said. “That’s why it’s crucial to get such important testing and get the results back quickly and more importantly, correctly.”

Eyewitness News has reached out to Raimondo’s office and the health department regarding the inaccurate test results Fraser mentioned, but has yet to hear back.

But on Friday, the health department reported that more than 100 Rhode Islanders received “false-positive” test results from a private lab.

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