LeadingAge Florida President and CEO Steve Bahmer speaks Wednesday during the LeadingAge press conference.

Long-term care providers took their complaints about lack of pandemic support to new heights Wednesday as they urged lawmakers to push for additional resources for operators as the next coronavirus relief package is finalized. Some of the providers reported spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to test residents and staff. 

“Our members are spending an average of over $67,000 per month on PPE related to COVID — out of their own pockets without any additional financial support,” Pam Koester, LeadingAge Arizona CEO, said during a press conference Wednesday. 

She added that extended wait times for testing has forced several providers to arrange and pay for testing on their own in order to get the results back in a more timely, safe manner. 

“To date, our members have spent over $600,000 — again out of their own pockets without reimbursement — on testing their residents and staff. This is not sustainable,” she said. 

The LeadingAge press conference comes on the heels of Senate GOP leaders’ proposed $1 trillion relief package. Providers called on Congress to include additional funding for providers, sufficient testing, PPE and hero pay for workers in the latest relief package. 

Carol Silver Elliott
Carol Silver Elliott

At the start of the pandemic, it was tough for New Jersey-based provider Jewish Home Family to get access to sufficient testing, according to President and CEO Carol Silver Elliot. It was only when a staff member found a connection through an out-of-state lab when the provider could secure reliable testing, and they’re still using that lab. 

“We have been in a fight for our lives to get testing,” Elliott said. “FedExing lab tests overnight to this lab and then waiting the days it takes to receive the results. All of that costing us $50,000 a week as an organization — costs that are not being picked up by the state or federal government. Costs that we are sustaining as an organization.”

“We need help to win this fight. We are all trying to do the right things. We are here because we are committed to the care of our elders,” she added. 

In Florida, the pandemic’s impact on long-term care was equated to a Category 5 storm. 

“The COVID storm is already here,” said Steve Bahmer, president and CEO of LeadingAge Florida. He noted that the operating losses for Florida providers have ranged between $100,000 and $3 million per month thanks to revenue declines and increased costs for staffing, PPE and testing. “That path is clearly unsustainable.” 

It took up to 17 days for Sun Health, an Arizona-based senior living provider, to get testing results back during the peak of the pandemic in Arizona, according to Bhakti Gosalia, the company’s vice president of operations. 

“Now, we are maybe waiting four to five days — still a stressor,” Gosalia said. “If the testing resources were adequately provided it would put more healthcare workers in the workforce. Adequate testing resources do not even include the emotional toll health workers and our families are going through while we wait for test results.”