HOUSTON – A newly released report from the American Health Care Association (AHCA) focuses on the impact the pandemic has had on nursing homes.
According to the AHCA, 327 nursing homes have closed nationwide during the pandemic with more than 400 projected in 2022.
Prior to the COVID-19, the AHCA’s report shows 776 facilities have shut their door since 2015 with 44,459 residents displaced.
“It looks like it’s an industry-generated report so they’re getting their message out. They are telling us what they’re wanting us to know,” said Greg Shelley, a Managing Local Ombudsman for the Harris County Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program at Cizik School of Nursing at UTHealth Houston.
The Ombudsman program at the Cizik School of Nursing at UTHealth Houston advocates on behalf of people living in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Shelley said he’s skeptical of the data, which he said could be more transparent.
“Haven’t had a chance to or even know if we get a chance to look at the database that they use to pull those numbers from.”
But Shelley said he is noticing nursing homes shutting down. He said he recalls about six within Harris County within the last eight years, some due to financial reasons.
“In a couple of those cases, a few of the facilities were poor performing ones not doing a great job with the quality of care and having trouble having a high occupancy,” he said.
The AHCA’s report attributes a majority of nursing home closures to pandemic-related safety costs, cuts in government funding, and a workforce crisis. Residents in urban areas and those who rely on Medicaid are most affected by the closures, according to the report.
Kevin Warren is the President and CEO of the Texas Health Care Association. He said the federal reimbursement rate for care is far less than the actual cost of care often provided to nursing home residents.
“Those added costs combined, with an already low Medicaid reimbursement rate is going to put further strain on these providers and then decisions are going to have to be made about whether or not they can maintain and keep their doors open,” Warren said.
Warren said should the federal government end its Public Health Emergency aid, it could put even more nursing homes in financial danger.
“We’ve got to implement a Medicaid fiscal policy that addresses those ongoing increases in order to make sure these buildings can maintain the care that those residents deserve,” Warren added.
Shelley said the real issue he sees isn’t fiscal.
“The lack of staffing in nursing homes is a huge generalization is directly correlated to poor care. It’s not everybody, certainly, there are providers doing a good job,” Shelley said. “I hope that in the near future we’ll have accountability for that.”
He said a better trained and certified workforce will ultimately result in better quality care in nursing homes.