Ohio nursing homes draft plans to relocate patients ahead of expected surge

Nursing home
Posted at 5:04 PM, Apr 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-01 18:31:32-04

Ohio's nursing homes are bracing for what is shaping up to be both a devastating economic loss and significant impact to residents as the coronavirus is expected to surge during the month of April.

"We are really concerned about the surge," warns Peter Van Runkle, Executive Director of the Ohio Health Care Association that represents more than 1,000 nursing home facilities across Ohio.

Public health officials earlier predicted as many as 10,000 new coronavirus cases a day by the end of April, but during a news briefing Monday, Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton said the peak could come in mid-April and may not be as overwhelming,

Even so, Ohio's 73,000 nursing home residents remain at risk for COVID-19 as the amount of personal protective equipment, such as masks, gloves and gowns remains scarce.

"Some of our facilities are paying up to 1,000 percent mark ups for PPEs," says Van Runkle, "as well as having to increase salaries in some cases for hazard pay."

Facilities are spending more on overtime as well as residents being served meals in their own rooms and not crowded dining rooms.

Some are purchasing expensive iPads so residents can visit with family and friends online and avoid contact, and it's coming with a huge price tag.

A conservative estimate "is $150,000 a month for each facility," says Van Runkle, who fears that could easily translate into $1.5 million collectively for nursing homes across Ohio every month the crisis continues.

"This is a massive economic burden," for their members, he said.

There is also the looming threat that some nursing facilities may be asked to convert to hospital rooms to relieve possible overcrowding at hospitals overwhelmed by coronavirus patients.

In that scenario, residents would be relocating to other buildings to make way for hospital patients.

And so far, Ohio's nursing home industry remains in the dark on whether state or federal aid is available to ease the financial impact.

"I'm laying out cash today," says Van Runkel, " but where am I getting cash to do that if I am a nursing home administrator?"

So far, Van Runkle says the state has not provided help through Medicaid increases in funding.

Finally, there is the concern over what could be "coronavirus clusters" in Ohio nursing homes.

But surprisingly, Ohio public health officials have not shared that data with the Ohio Health Care Association.

"We are not getting specific reports," says Van Runkle, "but we know it's growing".

So far, he estimates at least 20 facilities in the state have confirmed cases involving either residents or employees.