COVID-19 pushes skilled nursing occupancy down 10%, analysis finds – News

Liza Berger

The nursing home population has fallen by 100,000 residents, or 10%, since the end of 2019, according to a Wall Street Journal news report. The main cause cited was complications related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The occupancy decrease reflects several factors, including families who chose to remove their loved ones from facilities, deaths and people who opted not to enter nursing homes amid the pandemic, the Wall Street Journal said. The news organization used data released by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services  last week, which represented the first publicly available data on nursing homes since the pandemic began.

The latest CMS data, which spawned the Wall Street Journal analysis, is exciting and significant for the field, said Brian Jurutka, president and CEO of the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care. 

“As the mechanism, the machinery, starts getting put into place to collect that information … it will really help in terms of analyzing the impact that the disease has had in the skilled nursing population and put it into context,” Jurutka told McKnight’s.

“The first couple reports, while I think [they will be] insightful, the real value will come out of the regular cadence of information and looking at trends in information over time,” he added.

In May, CMS started requiring nursing homes to submit COVID-19-related data to the Centers for Disease Control in an effort at public transparency. The data released by CMS last week includes suspected and confirmed deaths from COVID-19, occupancy levels and the amount of personal protective equipment on hand. CMS will be providing weekly data updates.

Among the trends the CMS data can help to reveal is how properties are faring with COVID-19, the impact of the broader community penetration rate on a facility, and how the availability of personal protective equipment might be affecting mortality rates, Jurutka said.

The initial CMS data has limitations, as the Wall Street Journal news report indicated — for example, only 12,000 nursing homes out of the nation’s total of 15,000 submitted acceptable data for the most recent period surveyed, and nursing homes could choose not to report COVID-19 deaths prior to May —  but it offers a starting point, Jurutka said.

“It’s not a complete accounting or understanding. But, gosh, you have to start somewhere,” Jurutka said.

Liza Berger

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