Is it time to think about ending private operations of nursing homes?

The previous Politics and Other Stuff post detailed a number of issues concerning nursing home ownership and management. This post discusses nursing facility operations during the pandemic.

How well are nursing facilities managing their patient care during the COVID-19 pandemic? From the New York Times:

At least 25,600 residents and workers have died from the coronavirus at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities for older adults in the United States, according to a New York Times database. The virus so far has infected more than 143,000 at some 7,500 facilities.

Nursing home populations are at a high risk of being infected by — and dying from — the coronavirus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, is known to be particularly lethal to older adults with underlying health conditions, and can spread more easily through congregate facilities, where many people live in a confined environment and workers move from room to room.

While just about 10 percent of the country’s cases have occurred in long-term care facilities, deaths related to Covid-19 in these facilities account for a third of the country’s pandemic fatalities…

Some states… regularly release cumulative data on cases and deaths at specific facilities. [O]thers, provide some details on the number of cases — but not on deaths. Others report aggregate totals for their state but provide no information on where the infections or deaths have occurred. About a dozen report very little or nothing at all.

The share of deaths tied to long-term care facilities for older adults is even starker at the state level. In about a dozen states, the number of residents and workers who have died accounts for more than half of all deaths from the virus.

The Buffalo News reported this past Saturday:

County Executive Mark Poloncarz said Friday that 55% of all confirmed Covid-19 deaths involved nursing home residents – and that number may understate the nursing home death toll.

The percentage cited by Poloncarz includes nursing home residents who contracted the illness while living in nursing homes but who ultimately died in hospitals.

However, the reported nursing home-related Covid-19 deaths in Erie County do not include any cases in which nursing homes suspect a death was Covid-19 related, but in which the person who died was never tested for confirmation…

He also specifically referred to the Covid-19 outbreak at the Absolut Care nursing home in East Aurora, which has resulted in 11 Covid-19 related deaths as of Thursday, according to the state…

Poloncarz said that almost all of those cases are directly attributable to a Covid-19 outbreak at the East Aurora nursing home.

The county executive said the outbreak was likely caused by a staff member since visitors have been barred from nursing homes.

That assertion from Poloncarz, however, does not account for infected admissions, said Edward Farbenblum of RCA Healthcare Management, which has been in the process of buying Absolut Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation at Aurora.

All staff and patients have now been tested for the virus…

Five other Erie County nursing homes have reported as many or more confirmed Covid-19 related deaths as Absolut Care in East Aurora, based on state data from Thursday.

They include Father Baker Manor, with 33 deaths; Harris Hill Nursing Facility, 19 deaths; Garden Gate Health Care Facility, 17 deaths; Seneca Health Care Center, 12 deaths; and Buffalo Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing, 11 deaths.

Eleven other nursing homes reported fewer than 10 confirmed Covid-19 related deaths…

The ownership and management of nursing homes has become increasingly dominated by conglomerates and other private firms that may prioritize profit over resident care, even during “normal” times. With the incredible rates of COVID-19 infection in nursing facilities, do you think it might be time that this state and others should consider ending the profit-motivated, often hedge fund controlled ownership of the facilities?  Should nursing home managers be accountable to the residents, their families, and the public, rather than bottom line profit?

If tomorrow or next month or next year you were faced with a decision about placing a loved one into an existing privately operated nursing facility, how comfortable would you feel about that?

Take a moment to indicate what type of ownership and management of nursing facilities that you think would be best.