Home > Uncategorized > Administration mum so far on why DDS COVID-19 testing process has been so slow

Administration mum so far on why DDS COVID-19 testing process has been so slow

Although we have been getting data and responses from the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) to questions about COVID-19 testing results in group homes, no one in the administration is saying why the testing has been going slower than projected, and no one seems concerned about speeding it up.

According to the latest data we have from DDS, which was as of Thursday (May 21), the Department’s mobile testing provider, Fallon Ambulance Service, had tested 16,200 residents and staff, most of them in group homes throughout the system.

While that may sound like a lot, Fallon, a Quincy-based company, began testing on April 10, and has been averaging under 400 tests per day since then. DDS Commissioner Jane Ryder stated early on that Fallon had the capacity to perform up to 1,000 tests per day.

At this point, six weeks into the testing program, Fallon has tested about 65% of what we had estimated to be a total of 25,000 residents and staff in the DDS system. As we understand it, there has been no retesting of any of those persons living or working in the group homes, although we have heard that some people have been periodically retested in the Wentham and Hogan developmental centers.

Our estimate of the total number of staff in the DDS system might be low. WCVB Channel 5 news reported last night that there are a total of 34,000 staff working in the DDS system. If that is the case, Fallon has tested only 35% of the total number of residents and staff in the system.

The number of residents tested, in fact, stayed the same between Monday (May 18) and Wednesday. As of Monday, 5,600 residents and 10,200 staff had been tested throughout the DDS system.

As of Wednesday (May 20), DDS data showed the number of residents tested had remained at that same 5,600 level, while 100 additional staff had been tested. It would appear from those numbers that between Monday and Wednesday of this week, Fallon was averaging only 50 tests a day, and the company tested only staff during that time.

Despite the slow pace, the actual results of the testing continue to be important and concerning. More than 3,300 of the total staff and residents tested — or nearly 21% — have been found to have COVID-19. And the DDS data shows that more than 50% of the provider-run group homes in the state have now reported cases of the virus in their residences.

That data only underscores the importance of conducting the testing on a more timely basis.

We first raised a concern about the apparently slow pace of the testing process about a month ago. We also expressed a concern at that time — the first of many times since — that the testing process was voluntary for staff in the group homes. Apparently little or nothing has been by the administration to address either of those concerns.

Neither DDS or EHS commenting so far on the slow pace of testing

When we got the data from DDS that as of Monday, only 15,800 persons in the DDS system had been tested, I emailed DDS Ombudsman Christopher Klaskin to ask if Fallon was still the only company doing the testing. We heard reports that at least one other ambulance company was interested in supplementing the testing done by Fallon.

Klaskin wrote back to me on Wednesday, stating that Fallon “is the only provider contracted to perform mobile testing for DDS and several other EHS (Executive Office of Health and Human Services) agencies.”

Given that Fallon had by Monday been on the testing job for 39 days and was thus averaging only 405 tests a day since starting, I asked Klaskin whether any other companies had expressed interest in supplementing the testing, and why Fallon was still the only company doing the work. Klaskin declined to respond to those questions, saying Fallon is contracting for the work with MassHealth, which is part of EHS, and that I should direct my questions to them.

So, on Wednesday afternoon, I emailed EHS Secretary Marylou Sudders with essentially the same questions, and asked whether the state was seeking to contract with any additional companies to undertake the testing. Thus far, I haven’t gotten a response either from Sudders or from Jessica Lyons, the communications manager for MassHealth, whom I had also emailed on Wednesday.

Also on Wednesday, I filed a Public Records request with EHS/MassHealth and DDS, asking for the contract with Fallon for testing in the DDS system, and any related procurement documents and memoranda that address the need for the procurement, the scope of the services, the projected costs, timelines, and capacity of the company, and any applications filed by any other companies to undertake or supplement the testing program.

Testing is a critically important part of the process of getting us through the pandemic with as little additional loss of life as possible. The Baker administration has made testing a priority, and Massachusetts has, in fact, acquired a reputation as a leading state with regard to testing its residents overall.

But when it comes to ensuring the speediness and thoroughness of testing of persons with intellectual and other developmental disabilities and their caregivers, the state has once again fallen short. And no one in the administration appears to be willing to acknowledge or discuss it.

 

 

  1. joe lavallee
    May 22, 2020 at 11:21 am

    The Staff at these homes are not mandatory either.

    Like

  2. Gail
    May 22, 2020 at 2:01 pm

    I am going to text Rachel maddow
    Maybe she will do a story. She has been quite an advocate for nursing homes.

    Like

  3. Anonymous
    May 23, 2020 at 12:21 am

    DDS staff should and want to be tested.

    Like

  4. Anonymous
    May 23, 2020 at 10:38 am

    Good idea about Rachel Maddow. She owns a home in western Mass. so she may be interested.
    I emailed MaryLou Sudders yesterday, no response. Also saw a FB post from a group home direct care supervisor/worker (did not state the provider agency) requesting gifts/acknowledgement of support for direct care workers who are underappreciated and working very hard – post was heartfelt, stating that as a nonprofit agency, there was not much in their budget for such extras. Contrast that to how the WDC administration, family members, Family Association are thanking staff with tangible donations of food, cards letters etc.

    mau

    Like

  5. Anonymous
    May 26, 2020 at 5:05 pm

    Like

  6. itanzman
    May 29, 2020 at 7:07 am

    There is an individual in my son’s group home who has tested positive. They don’t go anywhere so a staff person must have brought the virus in. That person is most likely spreading the virus to others. The provider is not requiring staff to be tested and neither is the state.

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