How Strong Memorial Hospital is addressing patient backlog

How Strong Memorial Hospital is addressing patient backlog

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. — We told you about how Strong Memorial Hospital is seeing a record number of patients.

Now, we’re hearing from two women who are working behind the scenes to combat this. One woman works directly with the families of patients, who are patiently awaiting nursing home placement.

For over a year now, we’ve been reporting on short-staffing levels in nursing homes. It’s one of the main reasons they can’t take on new patients from the hospital.

But the communication is ongoing between hospitals and nursing homes as they work to alleviate it.

The demand for healthcare has grown in recent years for a lot of reasons, according to Kathy Parrinello, Chief Operating Officer for URMC Strong Memorial Hospital. With that comes an especially high demand for long-term care. Both hospitals and nursing homes are struggling to keep up.

“Just to give you an example, out of roughly 4,500 nursing home beds in our region, about 900 of them are closed. They aren’t officially closed but they aren’t being admitted to,” said Parrinello.

With a decreasing number of nursing home beds, patients aren’t getting discharged from the hospital.

Kelly Luther works directly with patients and their families at Strong to find placement. Her job as senior director of social work and patient and family services requires daily conversations with nursing homes.

“The nursing homes we’re talking to are across the state at this point, so it’s not just regionally,” she said. “We’re applying to those nursing homes locally, and within a very short time frame we are needing to expand that list of option.”

Luther said the conversations with families can be heart-wrenching, especially when discussing an out-of-town placement.

To alleviate the backlog, the hospital is temporarily resourcing space in a fairly new rehabilitation center where it added 11 beds in the past week.

On Tuesday, at a New York State Legislature meeting for health and Medicaid, several lawmakers brought up this very topic.

Assemblyman Josh Jensen called on the New York State Department of Health to do more.

“In 2023 there was 127 million dollars allocated to support nursing homes to comply with mandated staffing ratios,” he said. “What is DOH going to do to assist the long-term care facilities to comply with the mandates, especially in areas of the state where there is a labor shortage?”

James V. McDonald, NYSDOH commissioner, responded:

“As far as the money goes, as far as I know, it’s been allocated, some of it’s been spent, but not all of it spent, so there is a path forward for that,” said McDonald.

St. John’s President and CEO Charlie Runyon told News10NBC, it’s been “forced to take beds off-line”’” due to “inadequate Medicaid funding.”

The statement goes on to say:

“There is an $810 million State share Medicaid funding gap that continues to grow. It is unfortunate that our Governor does not prioritize New York’s most frail older adults. St. John’s, along with our fellow members of the Senior Alliance which includes Episcopal SeniorLife Communities, Friendly Senior Living, Jewish Senior Life and St. Ann’s Community, is asking our legislators for their commitment to reject the Governor’s proposed nursing home cuts and include a 16 percent Medicaid rate increase as a bridge to update its Medicaid rate methodology. New York’s nursing home rate methodology has not been updated in 15 years.”

The state Department of Health Tuesday afternoon issued the following statement in response: “The Department will continue to support nursing homes across New York State, and as the health and well-being of patients are paramount, we remain dedicated to ensuring that nursing homes providers keep them safe.”

The Department of Health also submitted the following:

  • While there are no Medicaid rate increases in the budget for nursing homes in the current budget, the State has increased reimbursement rates over the past couple years for these providers.  
  • The Fiscal Year 2023 Enacted Budget eliminated a prior Budget 1.5 percent reduction to reimbursement and included an additional 1 percent increase in provider reimbursement rates. 
  • Additionally, the Fiscal Year 2024 Budget included a 7.5 percent increase to nursing home rates. 
  • When taken together this has resulted in a 10 percent increase to facility Medicaid reimbursement rates. 
  • The Department of Health also reviews nursing home rates twice a year based on their submitted patient assessments to provide additional funding to nursing homes based on the health and service intensity necessary for the population they serve in their facilities. This review process results in significant additional Medicaid funding each year. 
  • Additionally, the Department does an annual update to nursing home capital funding based on their most recent cost report filed with the Department. 
  • While the amount of capital funding varies each year by facility, it typically results in an overall increase in Medicaid funding.

News10NBC’s Deanna Dewberry spoke with another local nursing home about concerns for Medicaid reimbursement, linked here.