OKLAHOMA CITY — Without more federal support, nursing homes and long-term care facilities nationwide are on the precipice of financial ruin and closure, advocates for aging service providers said Wednesday.
Aging service providers are struggling to secure and pay for COVID-19 testing, personal protective gear and staff, said Katie Smith Sloan, president and CEO of LeadingAge, a national association of more than 5,000 nonprofit providers.
The current financial situation faced by providers is unsustainable unless Congress intervenes. A new coronavirus aid package must be passed that includes historical levels of funding and resources for nursing homes, assisted care facilities and home health care providers, Sloan said.
Seven months into the pandemic, federal leaders only have given a “small, small fraction” of what aging care providers need, she said.
“The federal government has simply failed older Americans and the people who care for them,” Sloan said.
Pam Koester, president and CEO of Arizona LeadingAge, said the federal government aid provided thus far is insufficient. Nursing homes already received a 14-day supply of out-of-date, unusable personal protective equipment, she said.
Koester said nursing homes have rapid COVID-19 testing machines provided by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, but there are already numerous instances of the machines giving inaccurate results.
The testing supplies necessary to operate the federally provided machines aren’t available, she said. And, operating the machines is labor-intensive, which is not ideal for facilities already facing labor shortages due to the pandemic.
Friendship Haven, in Fort Dodge, Iowa, which serves over 300 residents and has 360 employees, will have to pay $33 per test kit — if any can be found, said Julie Thorson, president and CEO of the community.
Right now, Thorson has to pay outside laboratories $100 a test because Friendship Haven cannot obtain rapid tests kits, which can give results in as little as 15 minutes. Laboratories can take days to return test results.
“The cost is unsustainable,” Thorson said. “We need more help.”
She said no federal long-term plan is available to restore visitation at the facilities. The pandemic has left the elderly residents isolated, and they’re suffering.
“Safety at all costs has trumped quality of life,” she said. “We’ve been offering social-distanced outdoor visits here in Iowa, but with the weather changing, there is no plan for residents to be with their families inside.
“We wait and hope,” Thorson said.
Patrick Crump, president and CEO of San Antonio’s Morningside Ministries, said surveillance testing is expected to cost his organization $30,000 to $60,000 a week.
“Those numbers are not sustainable for our organization,” he said. “The confusion around testing, the confusion around the directives (that) have been given just put an extra burden on staff that are already stressed out and trying to cope with the day-to-day challenges.”
He said one of his locations received 200 test kits with the initial federal shipment. When they attempted to order additional ones, the expected delivery date continues to be delayed. They’re not expecting to receive any more shipments until the end of September now.
That means they’ll have to pay $100 a test for processing at outside laboratories.
Crump said his organization provided $1.5 million in charitable care to Medicaid clients last year, and is on track to do the same in 2020.
“How do we sustain the care that we’re currently providing without additional help?” he said.
Stecklein covers the Oklahoma Statehouse for CNHI's newspapers and websites. Reach her at email@example.com.