The crisis affecting Rhode Island’s nursing homes continues to escalate, yet there is no response from State leaders. Within the last couple of months, one nursing home has closed, three …
The crisis affecting Rhode Island’s nursing homes continues to escalate, yet there is no response from State leaders. Within the last couple of months, one nursing home has closed, three nursing homes have filed for bankruptcy, and one of RI’s oldest and largest non-profit homecare providers announced its closure. In addition, four other nursing homes have closed since the pandemic.
The impact on residents and their families as well as employees is devastating. A crisis is imminent, particularly as our elder population continues to grow while fewer services are available to them. Yet no one is taking action. Elder patients on Medicare and Medicaid will be particularly affected by the gap created.
As a state with one of the highest populations of people aged 85 and older, our leaders need to pay attention and do something before we witness the collapse of Rhode Island’s post-acute and long-term care system. Rhode Island’s elders and families will be unable to access the care they need.
There are two main issues impacting the quality of eldercare in Rhode Island.
Medicaid reimbursements have not kept up with the economy. The cost of providing care rose 30% between 2019-2022, according to our estimates. During that same time, Medicaid reimbursement rates rose only 4.7%. While we welcome the State’s 7% increase scheduled to begin next fiscal year, it’s still not enough to close the gap. It is becoming increasingly difficult for nursing homes to sustain operations with such a loss.
Maintaining staff mandates during an extreme staffing shortage has become extremely difficult. At Saint Elizabeth Home in East Greenwich, we reach and exceed the required staffing mandates, however, doing so comes at a huge expense. To ensure proper staffing around the clock, we’ve had to increase overtime for existing employees and utilize external agencies to bring in temporary workers at the highest rates we’ve seen in decades. Staffing is now a supply and demand issue and some organizations will not be able to keep up with the cost.
The State can help by immediately increasing Medicaid reimbursements while putting limits on how much staffing agencies are allowed to charge companies in order for them to maintain the mandates. In addition, there needs to be a concerted effort to recruit more employees to work in the eldercare field as CNAs, nurses and other key roles.
Rather than waiting for the situation to worsen, we must act now. All projections indicate that the decisions made over the next 3-5 years will be critical.
Let’s implement changes before it’s too late. Our elders deserve to receive quality, compassionate care and it is our responsibility to ensure that they do.
Matthew R. Trimble is President & CEO, Saint Elizabeth Community, Warwick.