The plight of nursing homes throughout the pandemic has produced some mighty grim news reports.
Just last month, new COVID-19 cases in U.S. nursing homes reached record numbers, according to the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL). More concerning to Minnesotans and Wisconsinites, nearly half of the new cases were in Midwestern states.
In addition, the risk for severe illness from COVID-19 increases with age, with older adults at the highest risk, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Eight out of 10 COVID-19-related deaths reported in the U.S. have been among adults 65 and older.
And now more grim news has broken: Many elder-care facilities are on the brink of going out of business.
“Two-thirds (66%) of nursing homes say they won’t make it another year … due to increased COVID costs,” the AHCA/NCAL said last week in a statement announcing the results of a survey it conducted with U.S. nursing home providers.
Among the survey’s other findings: 65% of nursing homes are operating at a loss and 90% at a profit margin of a measly 3% or less. Staffing demands during COVID-19 are driving up the nursing homes’ expenses: 90% have had to hire additional staff or are paying more in overtime, the survey found.
The numbers justify giving vaccinations to long-term care facilities first, the AHCA/NCAL argued.
Also, COVID-19 relief from Congress must be used to replenish the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Provider Relief Fund, it said. The fund is currently nearly out of resources that are used to help hospitals and nursing homes “respond to the record number of cases in the community and within our facilities,” according to the AHCA/NCAL.
“Our nursing home providers are facing the worst financial crisis in the history of the industry due to increased costs related to COVID (testing, personal protective equipment, staffing) and chronic Medicaid underfunding,” Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of the AHCA/NCAL, said in the statement. “Without adequate resources, the U.S. will repeat the same mistakes made during the initial outbreak last spring. We need Congress to prioritize our vulnerable seniors and their caregivers in long term care facilities.”
The plight of senior-care facilities recalls similarly dire predictions of late related to restaurants and hotels, also struggling to survive the pandemic. More than half of all restaurants in Minnesota face permanent closure as a result of the economic impacts of COVID-19, industry leaders said in a letter in November to Gov. Tim Walz. And a projected 77% of hotels will close without financial help from state or federal governments, the American Hotel and Lodging Association warned.
That’s a lot of teetering on the brink. And bad news that only keeps mounting. The cries for help cannot be ignored.