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Nursing homes struggling financially, has drop in residency amid pandemic

Virus Outbreak-Nursing Home Hotspot
Posted at 5:05 PM, Jan 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-28 19:05:39-05

The coronavirus pandemic has tested nursing homes across the US. As these facilities have had to implement strict protocols in order to prevent the spread of the virus, many nursing homes are struggling financially.

One big reason why is that nursing homes across the US have seen a drop in residency.

According to the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL), 90% of US nursing homes are operating at a loss. This is due to a number of factors, including staffing, decreased revenue from fewer residents, and Medicaid underfunding, the agency says.

From January 2020 to January 2021, nursing home occupancy rates dropped from 80.2% to 67.2%. That’s as more than 105,000 residents of nursing home have died since March from the coronavirus.

“Long term care facilities have seen a dramatic decline in occupancy because of the pandemic,” the AHCA/NCAL said in a statement. “With fewer new admissions, particularly short-term rehabilitation patients, the growing number of empty beds fuels financial losses, underscoring the need for additional funding in order to keep facilities’ doors open for their current and future residents.”

As the Biden administration is attempting to pass in additional $1.9 trillion stimulus bill, the AHCA/NCAL is calling for an additional $100 billion to the Provider Relief Fund, and allocate $20 billion of this fund to long term care.

The agency says in addition to prioritizing nursing home residents and staff in getting vaccines, the AHCA/NCAL is calling for support with personal protective equipment, timely testing and staffing support.

The AHCA/NCAL says that the pandemic has also caused staffing shortages.

“Staffing shortages have been an ongoing challenge for long term care facilities – a challenge that has only worsened in the wake of the pandemic,” the AHCA/NCAL said. “Staff members have missed work to take care of family members or have fallen ill with the virus and been forced to quarantine. A November survey by AHCA/NCAL found that staffing has been the top cost in response to COVID-19, with nine out of 10 nursing homes hiring additional staff and/or paying staff overtime, underscoring the need for immediate solutions that will help alleviate this challenge.”

The good news for nursing homes is that residents and staff are increasingly becoming vaccinated.

After being tapped to vaccinate workers and residents of skilled nursing facilities across the US, Walgreens and CVS both have said that they are on track to conclude the first round of coronavirus vaccinations on Monday.

COVID-19 vaccines currently come in two doses, with the second shot being administered three to four weeks following the first.

CVS said it expects to complete the first round of coronavirus vaccine to all nursing homes by mid-February, which means all nursing homes assigned to CVS could be fully vaccinated by March.

Walgreens has not put a date on when it expects to complete the nursing homes it has been assigned.