Federal programming was awarded in September to nursing homes that were affected by the pandemic, as they were the facilities that were responsible for keeping the elderly population safe, otherwise known as the most vulnerable population during COVID-19. The funding was meant to support and reward the facilities that followed the guidelines and kept their residents safe.
However, some of the facilities who received funding were some of the most dangerous nursing homes in Pennsylvania. Even though the funding helps the facilities improve and enables them to put the health of their residents first since money is less of an issue, it could be seen as a reward for not responding properly to the pandemic in the first place.
Many of these troubled homes received fines for their negligence to resident safety through failing to follow the simplest procedures to reduce the spread of the virus in the facility. The ones getting funding received awards that were sometimes twice the amount of their fines.
Allowing the spread of the virus isn’t the only problem many of these facilities had—in many cases, their residents died as a result. These homes also had a history of failing to control the spread of infectious diseases, even before COVID-19.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services claims that the $2 billion to be distributed over five phases through the Nursing Home Quality Incentive Program is only given to homes that kept infections down during the period they were being assessed. However, many of the facilities they gave funding to had histories of infection spread and death as a result.
In Pennsylvania alone, 618 nursing homes received a combined $79 million in funding from this program. There were over 7,700 deaths in those nursing homes that received the funding. That comes to about twelve resident deaths per nursing home.
They didn’t consider the full scope of how the facilities handled the virus, and only looked at a small sample of data. In fact, one in ten facilities had resident deaths reaching the double digits before getting the money, and even more deaths after the program was launched.
While facilities need funding to help them through the pandemic and deal with keeping the most vulnerable population safe, it’s clear that the federal agency deciding who gets funding and how much wasn’t using proper data for that decision.