Many nursing home patients are having shorter rehab stays. That, coupled with changes in federal reimbursements, means less Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements for long-term care facilities.
A drop in reimbursement funding can cause an added strain on the industry that saw occupancy numbers fall during the pandemic.
McLean County Nursing Home Administrator Terri Edens said the county-run nursing home in Normal has seen a financial downturn from the trend to shorter stays, but she said the sooner patients can get home, the better.
“That’s what you want to do. You should want to get them well and get them home,” Edens said. “I think giving them rehab and them getting to go home is a plus and an excellent marketing tool because of mouth is, ‘They were only there for a few weeks.’”
The nursing home is working on several strategies as long-term care facilities emerge from the pandemic, including trying to reverse years of financial losses. Edens has completed her first year on the job after the county brought her in to find ways to cut costs and grow its census count.
The nursing home is running at less-than-half of its 150-bed capacity.
Edens said it’s likely the pandemic kept the census count down, but the county also received federal funding to cover the cost of additional cleaning and other health measures. Edens said the nursing home adjusted to to help keep residents safe.
“The COVID wing was a necessity in keeping COVID residents safe and in a separate area,” Edens said. “That’s our number one priority, keeping our residents safe and happy.”
Edens said the nursing home has loosened many COVID restrictions, including reopening its dining room that had a positive effect on residents.
“The depression is not as bad as it was. They are coming out for activities,” Edens said.
The McLean County Nursing Home reported a $650,000 loss last year. That is an improvement from a $2.3 million shortfall in 2019. And that might look good compared with an industry as a whole that saw plummeting numbers and rising red ink in the last year and a half.
The facility has operated in the red 12 of the last 14 years. County officials have worked on several ways to improve facility finances, including a list of recommendations from a McLean County advisory panel.
Edens said a new wing for hospice care residents is part of a plan to boost the number of patients at the county-run home.
“It’s definitely going to be a plus for the residents themselves and their families in that it’s more private than being down on one of the other units with everybody else,” Edens said.
The hospice wing will be called Serenity Lane. Edens said it should be open by August,and will be housed in a part of the facility that’s not currently used.
A recent survey shows only a quarter of nursing homes in the United States are confident they will make it through the next year. Nearly half said they will have to make cuts. Edens said she believes the McLean County Nursing Home can stop financial losses, adding she feels the county is committed to making positive changes.
“We are so focused on keeping the county home and increasing the census and making it a good place to live and work,” said Edens, noting the county has started to pay its nurses a rate comparable to other long-term care facilities in the Twin Cities.
That would enable the county to save money on personnel by using less agency staffing, she said, adding the nursing home should be able to increase its census count as the pandemic fades.