Greater Cincinnati nursing homes feeling pandemic's financial strain

Mother dies in Illinois nursing home after nurse reads chart wrong, family alleges
Posted at 6:24 PM, Jan 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-28 20:49:22-05

Flipping through photos, Scott Reynolds of Hamilton wonders where his mother, Francene, would have gone if her nursing home shut down.

After surviving a bout with COVID-19 before Thanksgiving last year, she passed away on Jan. 1, 2021, in a local nursing home.

"They've got to have a place to go," Reynolds said of Ohio's nursing home residents, "and that's why we need to concentrate on keeping these facilities open, because not everybody has the opportunity or the setup to bring a loved one home."

Now, the future of some Greater Cincinnati nursing homes and care facilities is in question after the Ohio Health Care Association said the industry has lost so much money during the pandemic that some nursing homes might have to shut down.

There are two reasons why the Ohio Health Care Association said some nursing homes could close: The pandemic has decreased the patient population 13% and, in turn, money coming in. Businesses are also spending more on staffing and protective gear.

AROUND THE U.S.: Nursing homes struggling financially, has drop in residency amid pandemic

Executive Director Pete Van Runkle said the industry was already struggling to make money; profit margins for these nursing facilities across the country are extremely slim, many at 0% or 1%.

"They're teetering on the brink,” he said. “Then, you get COVID on top of that, which has decimated the census in facilities, which is where they get their revenue, and it has required them to spend money on staffing and PPE and a variety of different things they need to battle the disease."

Van Runkle said these facilities were able to dip into $175 billion in provider relief funds at the start of the pandemic.

Since then, that money is depleting, and Van Runkle said the end result will be businesses shutting down.

“That life boat that’s kept providers afloat for the last several months, many months, will be gone,” he said, “and that’s when we see this potential for real serious problems.”

The National Health Care Association is asking the federal government for $100 billion more to keep facilities financially afloat.

"That should help tide us over, hopefully until the vaccine really takes effect,” he said.

Reynolds, an advocate for people living in skilled-care facilities, said he may not agree with many nursing home visitation rules during the pandemic, but he certainly doesn't want facilities to close. He believes the state could help shoulder the burden as 63% of nursing home patients benefit from Medicaid.

“We’ve got to focus on what’s in front of us right now. We can’t afford to close facilities,” he said.