Providers are pushing back against a state requirement that mandates them to file weekly visitation reports — on a strict deadline — or face thousands of dollars in fines. 

The order was issued by South Carolina health officials in October to investigate visitation practices at facilities during the pandemic. The rule requires nursing homes and assisted living facilities to report on whether they allowed visitation during the previous week and provide a reason if they didn’t allow visits.

It also mandates providers to submit a separate report for each licensed facility and report the number of residents who participated in the visit. The reports are required to be submitted each Monday by 5 p.m. 

Facilities have been fined a combined $155,550 for failing to submit the weekly reports on time since its implementation, The State reported. A majority of the state’s 700 facilities have been fined at least once, while more than 100 have received multiple fines, the report added.

Providers have criticized the mandate for being an additional burden during already stressful COVID-19 health crisis. 

“It’s a waste of time,” Linda Walker, an administrator, told the news organization. Walker manages six assisted living facilities, which have been fined a combined $6,300 for 18 violations. 

“When we close down the facilities, we close them down. When we open them up, we open them up. To me, it’s just something more to do. And then if you forget, heaven forbid, it’s thousands upon thousands of dollars,” Walker said. 

Heather Turnage, a registered nursing and administrator, missed her facility’s reporting deadline three times within a four-week span following a COVID-19 outbreak. The facility was fined a combined $1,050. Turnage said the “visitation form is the least of my priorities” during such busy times. 

“I’m working 12 to 16 hours a day, 26 days straight on the floor,” she said. “I’m trying to handle my building and trying to handle the residents.”

The state’s Department of Health and Environmental Control acknowledged the complaints from providers regarding the submission deadline for the reports. The agency said there are no current plans to stop assessing monetary penalties against providers but added the practice could be relaxed in the future.