Rural nursing homes struggle financially to meet testing requirements

Coronavirus

Nursing Homes Continue To Fight Against the Coronavirus

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – Some nursing homes in northeast Kansas are running out of money because of coronavirus testing requirements.

The testing requirements are set by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Counties fall into three different color categories: red, yellow and green. These are determined by the percent positivity in the community.

In the red zone, all employees must be tested twice per week. The yellow zone means employees only have to be tested once per week. In the green zone, employees must be tested once per month.

The requirement says nursing homes must offer tests to their residents at the same frequency they are required to test employees at as well.

The Nicol Home in Glasco, a 32-bed home in Cloud County, does whatever it can to make the experience the best it can be, using slip ‘n slides in the summer, making snow angels in the winter and having a cigar club. It’s a stark contrast from what they can do in the pandemic.

On Sept. 25, Cloud County was considered in the “red zone”.

“We spent about $18,000 on three weeks worth of tests. For a facility of our size, where we are located, having some past struggles at our facility, it makes it a little difficult to swallow that on your line item budget,” Carter Olson said.

Olson is the administrator at the Nicol Home, who pointed to an outbreak at a local community college, giving Cloud County the red zone designation. The college is in a town 25 miles away. Now, the nursing home must bear the price tag of testing employees twice a week.

“We’re blanketed in and right now there’s no room for self-interpretation for rural areas versus more densely populated urban areas,” Olson said.

Amy Hoch Altwegg is the administrator at Linn Community Nursing Home in Washington County.

“You can’t win for losing, it feels like,” Altwegg said.

In the last three weeks Altwegg spent $15,000 on testing materials.

While she has more staff than Olson, Washington County, where her home is located, is in the yellow zone. Therefore, they only have do half the testing.

Visitation limits also work on a color by color basis. In the red zone there are no visitors. Yellow has a limit on the number of visitors and in the green zone, visitors are allowed more freely.

Right now, visitors are able to see their loved ones outside in some cases. But as the leaves change color and the temperature drops, visitation will be even harder as people can’t go outside. The homes are faced with the challenge of telling their loved they’ll be seeing residents even less.

For people with dementia that can be really hard to process.

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