Coronavirus 'has been a clinical disaster' and 'a business nightmare' for nursing homes
Nursing homes in the US are in dire straits due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Many long-term care facilities became hot spots for virus outbreaks early and frequently. More than 410,000 residents and 350,000 employees tested positive for COVID-19, while 81,790 residents and 1,216 employees have died from the disease caused by the coronavirus. As a result, many families have relocated their loved ones from these facilities to keep them safe.
"This has been a clinical disaster," said Mark Parkinson, CEO of AHCA / NCAL, on Yahoo Finance Live (video above). “The numbers are just mind boggling and heartbreaking about what has happened to the elderly and facilities in the general population. It was terrible. It was also a business nightmare. "
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Governor Ned Lamont welcomes Jeanne Peters, 95, a rehab patient at The Reservoir, a care facility after receiving the first vaccination against coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the West Hartford, Connecticut, nursing home on December 18 would have. 2020. Stephen Dunn / Pool via REUTERS
The nursing home industry is devastated: A new survey by the American Health Care Association and the National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA / NCAL) found that two-thirds of nursing homes don't believe they'll make it this year from increased COVID costs .
According to the Wall Street Journal, nursing home occupancy in the US has fallen 15% since late 2019. Parkinson described these numbers as "catastrophic". The survey also found that 90% of nursing homes operate with a loss or profit margin of less than 3%.
Nursing homes are concerned they won't make it through the year. (Graphic: AHCA / NCAL)
The nursing home industry can “only last as long as federal aid lasts”.
The pandemic exacerbated existing problems for the sector: the nursing home industry has faced a financial deficit since at least 2013, especially on non-Medicare margins, according to AHCA.
Non-Medicare margins, which refer to "Medicaid and private payers-related revenues and costs for all businesses," declined 3% in 2018, up from the previous year.
During the pandemic, the industry relied on federal aid provided by the CARES Act, but Parkinson noted that the sector "can only last as long as federal aid lasts".
Sarah Tongson, Director of Social Services, gives Douglas Smith a hand sanitizer during a visit with his wife, Deborah Trigueiro, at the Kirkland Life Care Center on August 24, 2020 in Kirkland, Washington. (Photo by Karen Ducey / Getty Images)
Congress passed a new stimulus bill this week, the first major bailout bill since March, but President Trump called for stimulus tests to be higher before signing. The nursing home industry would receive a $ 3 billion relief fund if the legislation becomes law.
Parkinson said he was "a little disappointed" with the amount, but "we hope that more will be added when Congress returns in 2021."
"60% of the buildings are currently operating at a loss," he said. “So if there was no government aid at all, we would see much more than 10% to 20% of the sector closing its doors. With federal aid, there will be closings. We'd expect several hundred to 500 buildings or so to close in 2021, but the sector will for the most part be able to stay intact, but again this is about continued federal aid and restoring the census after vaccination. "
The introduction of COVID-19 vaccines will be critical to the bottom line of the industry as it will play an important role in the return of the census (total population). While census numbers are a major concern of Parkinson's, staffing has also proven to be a cost issue.
The AHCA / NCAL survey found that 90% of nursing homes had to hire additional staff and / or pay overtime, and 58% of nursing homes said this was their main cost due to the pandemic.
Hiring employees has driven up costs. (Graphic: AHCA / NCAL)
"If we can get federal aid by the first half of 2021 to vaccinate all people under our March 1, 2021 goal to get their second vaccine, then we believe the census can be rebuilt," he added added. "It's not going to snap back overnight. We think it's about half a percent or one percent a month. So we're looking at 12 to 18 to 24 months, but we believe the sector can do this as long as federal aid is up lasts for the first half of 2021. "
"You just need more help to keep going"
In addition to additional state aid, vaccine distribution is another important factor for the industry.
The aid will help nursing homes last longer, while vaccines for residents and employees would stem the tide of infections and deaths in long-term care facilities.
"The vaccine obviously works just fine," said Parkinson. “The side effects have been pretty limited and we hope that once everyone in these buildings is vaccinated, in about 60 days they will be recognized again as safe places for their parents and grandparents and we can start building our company back. "
Garry Damper, 67, a patient at New Jewish Home, a nursing home facility, receives the coronavirus vaccine from Walgreens pharmacist Jessica Sahni on December 21, 2020 in New York City. REUTERS / Yuki Iwamura
In the meantime, nursing homes could learn from their mistakes and adjust their infection protocols, knowing now that viruses can be spread just as easily by asymptomatic people.
"As we sit here today, assisted living facilities and nursing homes continue to struggle," Parkinson said. "They are doing everything they can to keep COVID out of their buildings and they just need more help to keep going."
Adriana is a reporter and public health editor for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @adrianambells.
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