Home > Uncategorized > A comparison of two contracts for COVID-19 testing shows a bias against persons with developmental disabilities

A comparison of two contracts for COVID-19 testing shows a bias against persons with developmental disabilities

We examined two emergency contracts that the state has signed with two separate ambulance companies to test different groups of people for COVID-19 in congregate settings.

The comparison of the two no-bid contracts provides yet more evidence that the administration is less concerned about persons with intellectual and other developmental disabilities than it is about other populations.

We received both contracts from the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS), under a Public Records Law request.

One of the contracts, signed with the Quincy-based Fallon Ambulance Service, is for testing residents and staff in group homes and developmental centers funded by the Department of Developmental Services (DDS.) The contract doesn’t mention DDS, however, which is part of the problem.

The other contract, with Weymouth-based Brewster Ambulance Service, is to test persons in nursing homes and other congregate facilities for the aged, many of which are licensed and regulated by the Department of Public Health (DPH). The contract appears technically to be an amendment to an existing contract between Brewster and EOHHS.

Lack of specifications

To start with, the Fallon contract doesn’t specify testing at DDS sites, and, as noted, doesn’t mention DDS.  It says only that Fallon must “travel to sites as specifically directed by EOHHS” and test “certain individuals” for COVID-19. The contract doesn’t specify that Fallon must test either residents or staff.

DDS has told us that Fallon’s job is ultimately to test all residents and staff in the group homes and developmental centers in its system, and that Fallon is the only company currently undertaking that testing service for DDS.

The Brewster contract, in contrast, specifies that the company must test for COVID-19 in skilled nursing facilities, assisted living, rest homes, and senior housing. That contract also doesn’t specify testing of residents or staff, but the administration has required that the facilities test all staff in order to receive hundreds of millions of dollars in funding for COVID-related costs.

We have reported that staff in the DDS system, on the other hand, can opt out of testing altogether, and the Fallon contract appears to reflect that situation.

In not specifying DDS facilities, the Fallon contract casts doubt on the state’s commitment to fully test individuals in the DDS system.

No minimum daily amount of testing required

Despite the emergency nature of the COVID crisis and the emergency procurement of the Fallon services, there is no sense of emergency in the terms of the contract itself. There is no required daily rate of testing, for instance, and no timeline for testing the entire DDS system.

There is no timeline in the Brewster contract either, but that contract does require testing a minimum of 250 individuals a day, 7 days a week, and requires that the company communicate results of tests within 72 hours to those tested.

As we have reported, Fallon’s testing rate has been steadily dropping. Between June 1 and June 15, Fallon has averaged only 80 tests a day, according to DDS data. That is down from a peak on April 29, when the company performed more than 2,000 tests on that one day.

To date, based on the data, Fallon has tested about 75% of the total residents in the DDS system, leaving more than 2,000 residents and an undetermined number of staff waiting for their first test.

The Brewster contract requires the company to “prioritize” its testing services under the contract “over the provision of identical or similar services for any other entity to which it provides services.”   There is no similar provision in the Fallon contract.

Contract was not signed until weeks after Fallon started

Although Fallon began testing in DDS residential facilities on April 10, according to the Department, the Fallon contract was not signed until May 19 by a Fallon senior vice president, and until May 27 by a top EOHHS official.

Thus, Fallon was doing the testing for more than six weeks before the contract was signed by both parties to it.

The contract states that it is effective from April 7 through December 31, or 60 days after the expiration of the state of emergency, whichever is earlier.

Leaving aside the legal implications of not signing the contract, the fact that the state, in particular, didn’t bother to sign it for six weeks, raises further questions about the administration’s commitment to testing in the DDS system.

Even if the contract had provisions requiring Fallon to test at a minimum rate, the state would have had no legal means of compelling the company to meet such requirements if there was no signed contract.

The Brewster contract was signed on May 4, the date that the company began working under the EOHHS testing program, according to the contract.

We first asked EOHHS for the Fallon contract on May 21, but it apparently hadn’t yet been signed by both parties to it. We didn’t receive the two contracts from EOHHS until June 15.

Both contracts contain detailed requirements regarding testing procedures, the use of Personal Protective Equipment by testing personnel, and the use of certified labs that analyze the results. The fact that no such provisions were in effect contractually in Fallon’s case for six weeks raises questions about the nature of any agreements that EOHHS had with the provider to follow testing protocols and use certified labs.

No projected total contract payment

Neither the Fallon nor Brewster contracts project a total payment amount, and each contract specifies a different level of payment per testing visit.

The Fallon contract specifies payment of $80 per hour for each EMS personnel. The testing team consists of two EMS personnel, a “tech” and a “monitor.” The contract does not appear to be clear about payment of the tech and monitor.

The Fallon contract also specifies that the company will be paid for one hour prior to the beginning of each testing visit and one hour after completion to cover planning, travel, and other tasks.

The Brewster contract refers to an administrative executive order (Administrative Bulletin 20-18), which appears to specify a flat payment of $305 per testing visit.

New contract needed for DDS testing

“It sounds like it (the DDS testing) is ending in the manner it began – an empty husk,” said COFAR President Thomas Frain. “If you apply the same criteria to DDS testing that are on display for everyone else, i.e. the importance of testing in keeping people safe, this has been a failure.

“People challenged by intellectual disabilities are treated disparately,” Frain continued.  “We were made promises about testing of our loved ones that have turned out to be false and (EOHHS) Secretary (Marylou) Sudders and DPH are in the thick of it.”

Sudders, in particular, never responded to our email query in May as to why Fallon’s daily testing rate was so low in the DDS system and why no other company had been hired to supplement Fallon’s testing efforts.

We think a new contract needs to be drafted that specifies testing of residents and staff in the DDS system and sets a minimum daily testing rate that is significantly higher than what Fallon is currently doing. Moreover, DDS should seek competitive bids for that contract.

  1. Gloria J Medeiros
    June 23, 2020 at 11:48 am

    I am sending a sincere Thank You and God Bless to those whom are fighting for our loved ones in the DDS system–this has impacted so many people and will be impacting our loved ones in the future.

    Like

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