by Nyamekye Daniel
The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a financial toll on Georgia’s long-term care facilities, officials said.
Devon Barill, communications director for the Georgia Health Care Association and Georgia Center for Assisted Living (GHCA/GCAL), said the facilities have faced increased expenses and revenue losses from caring for the state’s most vulnerable population.
While COVID-19 can lead to severe complications in older people and those with underlying issues, the congregated facilities are often home to the elderly and people who require supportive care.
Barill said not only did nursing homes spend more money caring for residents during the outbreak that required more medical supplies and personal protective equipment, facilities also lost revenue because of capacity limits. The centers now are facing staffing shortages.
“While centers have historically experienced workforce shortages, these shortages have become greatly exacerbated due to the pandemic, and centers are incurring increased costs associated with recruiting and retaining an adequate workforce,” Barill said in a statement.
The American Rescue Plan Act included $450 million in federal aid for nursing homes nationally. Gov. Brian Kemp provided $113 million from the state’s allocation of federal COVID-19 relief funds to increase staffing and testing at long-term care facilities in October.
According to the GHCA/GCAL website, about 58,000 people are employed at long-term care facilities in Georgia. They are responsible for the care of 73,000 seniors.
More than half of COVID-19 deaths in Georgia were linked to long-term care facilities in May 2020, according to data from the Georgia Department of Community Health. There were 0.11 deaths per 1,000 residents in long-term care facilities during the week ending June 27 in Georgia, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
More than half of nursing homes and nearly half of assisted living communities nationally said they are operating at a loss, according to a recent American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living survey. Only a quarter of nursing homes and assisted living communities nationwide are confident they can last a year or more, the survey results showed.
Barill said the GHCA/GCAL has not heard of any centers in Georgia closing their doors, but she has not ruled it out.
“We know the current financial circumstances are not sustainable and that closure could become a real possibility for a number of providers in the not-so-distant future,” Barill said. “We certainly anticipate more mergers and acquisitions as independent owners may not be able to sustain operations. Additional funding is critically needed to ensure the financial stability of long-term care communities to continue to meet the needs of elderly Georgians.”
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Nyamekye Daniel is a regular contributor to The Center Square. She was the managing editor for the South Florida Media Network and a staff writer for The Miami Times.