American Health Care Association report shows COVID-19 has caused strain on nursing homes
HOUSTON – A recently released report by the American Health Care Association (AHCA) focuses on the impact of the pandemic on nursing homes.
According to the AHCA, 327 nursing homes have closed nationwide during the pandemic, with more than 400 expected in 2022.
Prior to COVID-19, the AHCA report shows that 776 facilities have closed since 2015 with 44,459 residents displaced.
“It looks like an industry-generated report, so they’re getting their point across. They tell us what they want us to know,” said Greg Shelley, local ombudsman in charge of the Harris County Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program at UTHealth Houston’s Cizik School of Nursing.
The Ombudsman Program at UTHealth Houston’s Cizik School of Nursing advocates for people living in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Shelley said he was skeptical of the data, which he said could be more transparent.
“We haven’t had the opportunity or even know if we have the opportunity to look at the database they use to extract these numbers.”
But Shelley said he is noticing nursing homes closing. He said he remembered about six people in Harris County over the past eight years, some for financial reasons.
“In a few of those cases, a few of the facilities were underperforming, not doing a great job with quality of care, and struggling to have high occupancy,” he said.
The AHCA report attributes the majority of nursing home closures to pandemic-related security costs, government funding cuts and a workforce crisis. Residents of urban areas and those relying on Medicaid are the hardest hit by the closures, according to the report.
Kevin Warren is the President and CEO of the Texas Health Care Association. He said the federal care reimbursement rate is far below the true cost of care often provided to nursing home residents.
“These additional costs combined, with an already low Medicaid reimbursement rate, are going to put additional pressure on these providers, and then decisions will have to be made about whether or not they can maintain and keep their doors open,” Warren said.
Warren said if the federal government ends its emergency public health assistance, it could put even more nursing homes at financial risk.
“We need to implement a Medicaid tax policy that responds to these ongoing increases to ensure these buildings can maintain the care these residents deserve,” Warren added.
Shelley said the real problem he sees isn’t fiscal.
“The understaffing in nursing homes is a huge generalization directly correlated with poor care. It’s not everyone, certainly, there are suppliers who are doing a good job,” said Shelley. “I hope that in the near future we will have the responsibility.”
He said a better trained and certified workforce will ultimately translate to higher quality care in nursing homes.
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