Nursing home vulnerabilities amid COVID-19 pandemic: A study of Midwestern states

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COVID-19, Nursing homes, staffing hours, for-profit nursing homes


Background: The COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately affected the older adult population, especially those in nursing homes (NHs). However, there is also evidence that some NHs fared better than others. Objectives: This study examines a set of nursing home related factors to understand whether these factors are associated with the number of COVID-19 cases. Design: We combined three datasets from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) – the Star Rating Dataset, the Provider Information Dataset, and the COVID-19 Nursing Home Dataset. Setting and Participants: 4390 NHs that responded to the CMS survey. Methods: Data used is from the period of Jan 1–Dec 27, 2020 for all 12 Midwestern states. The measures used were self-reported information on ratings, staff shortages, PPE shortage, number of beds, Registered Nurse (RN), Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN), Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA) hours per resident, star rating and ownership. Results: Of the 4390 NHs in 12 Midwestern states, high performing NHs were less likely to have more than 30 COVID-19 cases versus low-performing facilities for two of the CMS domains (health inspections, 520 NHs [27.6%] vs 1363 NHs [72.4%]; and staffing 773 NHs [41.1%] vs 1110 NHs [58.9%]). There was also a statistically significant association COVID-19 cases and star rating, NH ownership, NH size, RN, LPN, and CNA staffing in NHs (all p ≤ 0.01). NH ownership status persisted as a predictor of COVID 19 cases when controlled for NH size. Conclusions: Our study highlights two interesting findings. A) a statistically significant association between NH ownership structure and COVID-19 cases among residents – for-profit NHs had higher number of COVID-19 cases B) a statistically significant negative association between RN and CNA staffing and COVID-19 cases (i.e., more staffing hours of RNs and CNA correlated with a smaller number of COVID-19 cases) and a statistically significant positive association between LPN staffing and COVID-19 cases. We discuss ensuing policy implications for NHs.