As Pandemic Grinds On, Domestic Violence Shelters Grapple With Budget Gaps And Growing Needs

Katherine Verano is wrestling with an 830% increase in costs compared with last year for hoteling victims of domestic violence during the coronavirus pandemic. After a quiet period during the first months of the pandemic, when much of the state was locked down, domestic violence shelters started running at about 150% capacity during the summer months. When providers ran out of room for social distancing, clients had to be placed in hotels and fed. It’s been a complex time, said Verano, the executive director of Safe Futures, a New London-based nonprofit dedicated to providing counseling, services and shelter to victims of domestic violence in 21 southeastern towns. Safe Futures’ budget for hoteling clients has increased steadily this year.

Survivors Struggle With Lingering COVID-19 Symptoms

In April, Rhonda Eigabroadt, 53, showed up at the ER at MidState Medical Center in Meriden, struggling to breathe. Doctors did not expect her to survive the night, she recalled. Ten days earlier, she had tested positive for COVID-19 and was recovering at home in Bristol before taking a turn for the worse. An occupational therapist at the Litchfield Woods Health Care Center in Torrington, she, along with scores of staff and residents, had contracted the virus during an outbreak. Eigabroadt beat the odds, though.

Pandemic Deals Another Blow To Nursing Homes: Plummeting Occupancy

While the deadly coronavirus seems to be subsiding in Connecticut for now, its impact on nursing homes has not. More than 6,700 beds are empty, and it may take many months of financial struggle before occupancy climbs back to pre-pandemic levels. Of the approximately 200 nursing homes in Connecticut that receive payments from Medicaid, the government health insurance program for low-income people, only 15 were 70% or less occupied in January, according to the Connecticut Health Investigative Team’s analysis of state data. By August, almost five times as many facilities saw occupancy drop to that level or less. While the statewide average decline was 15%, the number of residents in 19 nursing homes has plummeted to 55% and below since January.

Medical Board Fines Two Doctors $5,000 Each

The state Medical Examining Board agreed Tuesday to fine two doctors $5,000 each and issued a cease and desist order to a woman without a Connecticut medical license who performed a procedure that led to an infection. Dr. Bryan Boffi, of Avon, a psychiatrist at the Hospital of Central Connecticut, was fined $5,000 and his license was reprimanded after he issued a patient a prescription for Ativan, a sedative, without consulting with the person’s regular mental health clinician, documents said. Boffi cared for the patient while the person was admitted to HOCC’s psychiatric ward in May of 2016, but failed to talk to the person’s out-patient psychiatrist about the patient’s history or inpatient treatment strategy before prescribing the medication, a consent order said. The state Department of Public Health (DPH) began investigating Boffi after receiving a complaint from the patient’s family, papers said. Boffi has since completed 150 hours of continuing education in the treatment of depression, addiction and the use of Benzodiazepines, such as Ativan, DPH officials said.

State Disciplines Two Physicians, Fines A Bolton Doctor

The state Medical Examining Board voted Tuesday to discipline two physicians including issuing a $4,000 fine and one-year probation to a Bolton doctor who prescribed opioids to at least two patients but failed to provide adequate drug screening and documentation. The board also agreed to modify the terms of discipline for two physicians including a Fairfield County doctor who had done federal prison time as part of a compound medication cream scheme. The Department of Public Health (DPH) began looking into the practice of Dr. Ronald Buckman, of Bolton, in 2018 after receiving a complaint from an employee, according to a consent order. While the agency didn’t substantiate any issues with the way Buckman’s family-based practice was being managed, investigators did find that he had “deviated from the standard of care” for at least two patients for whom he had prescribed opioids, DPH papers said. Buckman failed to adequately document and examine one patient to whom he had prescribed painkillers while the patient was also taking muscle relaxers, an anti-seizure drug and possibly an antidepressant, prescribed by other physicians, the DPH said.

Nurses Disciplined For Drug Abuse, Care Lapses, Falling Asleep At Work

Over the past several months, the state Board of Examiners for Nursing has disciplined the following nurses for improper patient care, drug abuse and falsifying license paperwork, among other violations. • The registered nurse (RN) license of Sashni C. Popp of Norwalk was recently reprimanded and placed on probation for one year for failing to properly care for a patient’s wound and for not meeting the standard of care for wound treatment, according to her signed consent order. • The Connecticut RN license of Amy Slepica, of Lakeville, Minn., was revoked because she made false statements on her application for a CT nursing license in December 2017 and again on her license renewal in November 2018. Slepica, whose Minnesota RN license was disciplined in 2017 and 2018 for failure to provide adequate patient care and to maintain adequate patient records, indicated on her CT applications that her RN license had not been the subject of disciplinary action in any other state. • The RN license of Nicolette Strizzi of Windsor has been suspended indefinitely while the board investigates allegations of substance against her, according to her signed interim consent order.

Getting Workforce Back To Full Strength Will Require Faster, Easier, And Better COVID-19 Tests

After the COVID-19 crisis came to Connecticut, the New Haven office of Comprehensive Dental Health shut down completely for two weeks. Later, Dr. Joseph Tagliarini began opening the office a few days a week with a skeleton crew to handle emergencies. Now the office is operating at nearly full staffing—with six full-time and six part-time employees. Nobody on the staff has gotten sick, and Tagliarini wants to keep it that way. He hopes the health care industry will produce a new generation of tests for the virus that will be simple, inexpensive, and accurate, and will deliver results on the spot.

Low-Income Children Are Most Vulnerable To Pandemic’s Long-Term Effects

Tameeka Coleman and six of her children lived on the streets before moving into a shelter in Fairfield. “We were together, so it was bearable,” said Coleman, 38. The hardest part was when her children cried for their home. “They wanted to know how we had lost our apartment,” said Coleman, who was evicted after she couldn’t pay the rent. Living conditions play a key role in children’s well-being.

Vape Marketing Linked To COVID-19 Draws Critics

Vape manufacturers have long been accused of marketing to teens with flavors like mango and cotton candy. Now vaping opponents say vape manufacturers are exploiting the coronavirus with face mask and hand sanitizer giveaways and #COVID-19 discounts. One maker of disposable vapes, Bidi Vapor, declared on Instagram: “A Bidi Stick a day keeps the pulmonologist away.”

The national Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids says the tactics are hypocritical. Its president, Matthew L. Myers, said it’s imperative that young people quit vaping to avoid being susceptible to COVID-19. “Never before in our history has it been more important for young people to have healthy lungs,’’ Myers said.

Ombudsman’s Facebook Chats Are Lifeline For Families Worried About Loved Ones In Nursing Homes

Families with loved ones in nursing homes–unable to visit while getting frustratingly sparse information about them–have found a champion in Mairead Painter. Painter, the state’s long term care ombudsman, who works for the state Department of Aging and Disability Services, launched live chat sessions on Facebook that quickly evolved into a real-time information pipeline for families. “I was trying to think about how we can reach people. Normally, residents and family members are sometimes the last people to get information,” said Painter, whose office is independent of the state Department of Public Health.  “I wasn’t sure anybody would join [the chats].