During the height of the pandemic, hospital administrators who wanted to discharge patients to post-acute care facilities often found they were unwilling or unable to accept patients because of concerns about potential COVID-19 infections. The same providers often did not have the bed capacity or staff to care for the patients either.
Those findings came in a national snapshot issued by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Inspector General Wednesday. The report captured hospitals’ perspectives on responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and how ongoing challenges — including being out of synch with post-acute providers — have impacted their capacity to care for patients, staff and communities.
Discharging COVID-19 patients to post-acute care facilities was one of the top challenges reported among hospitals, according to data collected during March 2020, when the pandemic first struck, resulting in longer stays for patients.
“Administrators reported that delays in discharge affected available bed space throughout the hospital and had other downstream effects,” the OIG report said. “For example, hospitals reported that patient opportunities for specialized post-acute care, like rehabilitation, were delayed.”
One hospital administrator told the agency that they have “patients in the acute-care setting that really do not belong here in terms of what they need clinically but can’t move on because there is not an available option.”
Skilled nursing operators remain chronically understaffed industrywide, and they have struggled more than others in the healthcare sector to recover jobs a year into the pandemic.
The decline in discharges from hospitals to skilled nursing facilities has been a key concern among long-term care operators, who have seen an increasing number of hospitals bypass them in favor of home care.