Hospice Providers Say ‘Reopening’ States Will Improve Access to Nursing Homes

Many hospice leaders believe that states’ gradual relaxation of COVID-19 shelter-in-place restrictions will positively impact their businesses, despite concerns about increased risks to staff. Providers expect that increased access to patients living in facilities will drive clinical and financial improvement.

More than half of hospice provider respondents to a Hospice News reader survey indicated that they believed their organizations would benefit from the states’ “reopening,” compared to 30% of respondents who said it would have a negative impact. Slightly less than 20% felt the removal of restrictions would not impact their clinical or business operations at all.

A key factor in these results was the expectation that it would become easier for hospices to access patients receiving care in nursing homes or assisted living facilities. The coronavirus has hit these facilities hard, with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reporting that nursing home populations are at the highest risk of infection.The U.S. Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced critical measures to help prevent spreading the virus.

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More than 62% of providers who responded to the Hospice News survey said that the reopening of nursing homes and assisted living facilities would have the most significant positive impact on their operations.

Despite the optimism about increased access to facilities, providers continue to fret about potential surges in virus cases. Media reports during the Memorial Day holiday weekend showed people crowding together in newly opened public spaces without wearing protective masks or practicing social distancing.

Some states have already seen a sharp increase in the rate of infections, though causation isn’t 100% attributable to increased public activity. Some theorize that the increased, but still largely inadequate, access to testing is also resulting in rising numbers due to fewer unreported cases.

Forbes reported that cases in at least one Alabama county more than doubled since that state began loosening mandated social distancing measures starting May 1. Texas, which has also largely reopened, saw the highest level increase in cases in a single day, according to Forbes.

The potential for more staff exposures to the virus is hospice providers’ top concern, the Hospice News survey shows. About 40% indicated that increased risk to staff was their most significant concern as states reopen.

Increased exposure could exacerbate ongoing staffing shortages due to the need for quarantining exposed individuals, while also striking providers’ bottom lines as costs associated with paid leave continue to climb.