Nursing homes across the country report financial struggles during pandemic

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By Mimi Elkalla, ABC10 News, August 19 2020

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — There are currently 34 active COVID-19 outbreaks at skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) across San Diego County.

Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county’s public health officer, said from March 25 to Aug. 18, there were hundreds of cases reported at SNFs.

“We have 86 skilled nursing facilities throughout the County of San Diego. In total, there have been 788 residents, and 515 staff members with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 and this includes 153 deaths,” she said Wednesday.

It’s a trend across the country, and as the nation deals with the pandemic, SNFs are reporting financial hardships.

A recent survey by the American Health Care Association and the National Center for Assisted Living of 463 nursing home providers across the nation revealed that many say they’re facing a financial crisis.

More than 55% reported operating at a loss, while 72% said they won’t be able to sustain operations for another year at the current pace.

The report shows that most of the financial troubles were linked to the increase in costs due to COVID-19, including additional staffing, more personal protective equipment (PPE), and testing.

“It could have and should have been avoided by simply adequately staffing and having appropriate PPE,” said Mike Dark, an attorney with California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform.

For decades, the nonprofit based in San Francisco has fought for rights and better conditions for long-term care residents and their families in California.

“At the beginning of this pandemic, nursing homes across the country had such terrible staffing and such thin PPE simply because money wasn’t being spent where it should have been,” said Dark. “It’s really up to the regulators to understand all the different sources of profit for nursing home owners and to make sure that when they hear that there’s just not enough money to pay for staffing or PPE, they really understand where those taxpayer health subsidy dollars are going.”

He said the issues have been going on long before the pandemic. To avoid a disastrous situation in the future, Dark says changes need to be made at SNFs across the country immediately.

“What nursing homes need to do, is staff up, train their staff, and make sure staff are adequately paid. Until that happens, we’re going to see this disease continue to spread.”