a rural area shown with equipment

Kansas hit a dubious milestone recently with the 52nd nursing home either shutting down entirely or taking beds offline since the beginning of the pandemic. 

Gove County Medical Center announced last week it would close down its long-term care facility in Quinter, KS, which has 29 residents and employs 34 personnel in a quintessential rural community of fewer than 1,000 residents. Facility leaders tried to sell the business but could not find a buyer, according to local media. 

“We get federal subsidies to run our hospital, and we actually receive, essentially, a penalty for running our long-term care,” Gove County Medical Center CEO Conner Fiscarelli told KSN.com. “Even if they are a ‘break-even’ or profitable long-term care, we actually get a penalty, and for us, it was a significant penalty year over year.”

Twenty-four nursing homes have shuttered while another 28 have delicensed parts of their buildings or campuses, according to LeadingAge Kansas. Eleven of the shuttered facilities were nonprofits. 

In November, LeadingAge Kansas and the Kansas Health Care Association partnered to survey their members about workforce and operations challenges. Of 116 nursing facility respondents, 59% acknowledged that insufficient staff was the primary reason to limit or pause admissions; 44% had an admissions’ wait list; and 25% had delicensed beds since the start of the pandemic. 

The situation in Kansas is similar to most other states, which are battling inflation, workforce problems, and legislative fights over increasing Medicaid rates. The American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living launched a national campaign earlier this year to boost hiring at nursing homes.

A statewide situation report from LeadingAge Kansas issued in January found that nearly 85,000 Kansans live in an area with just one skilled nursing facility within a 30-minute drive. Another 23,000 live in a “care desert” with a SNF at least one hour away. The report also found that labor costs were up 22% since the start of the pandemic, while the nursing home workforce is down 12%. 

Meanwhile, staffing agency costs are up 270%, and LeadingAge Kansas is lobbying for agency reforms, said President and CEO Rachel Monger.

“There is no Medicaid funding increase or workforce program that can balance that level of market exploitation,” she told McKnights Long-Term Care News on Tuesday, adding that providers are grateful that the state Legislature approved $151 million in new funding for senior care programs over the next fiscal year. That bill has not been signed into law yet by Gov. Laura Kelly (D).