One Explanation for Why Things Get Worse at Nursing Homes

The 'New Yorker' looks at the role private equity plays
By Mike L. Ford,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 18, 2022 2:15 PM CDT
Private Equity, Nursing Homes Make Lousy Bedfellows
   (Getty - Koonsiri Boonnak)

American society is in the early stages of a "silver tsunami," with adults over 65 expected to outnumber children by 2035. Demand for nursing homes will surge, as will revenues for those who operate such facilities, writes Yasmin Rafiei for the New Yorker. It’s an irresistible business opportunity for private equity groups and other for-profit companies, which collectively own about 70% of nursing homes. Many states have lax standards, and federal staffing requirements for such facilities are set at one registered nurse during the day and one licensed practical nurse in the evening, regardless of the number of residents. Rafiei’s take: Elderly Americans will likely suffer and die in the name of profit. She gives a real-world example.

For 147 years, the nuns at St. Joseph’s Home for the Aged in Richmond, Virginia, maintained a pristine facility imbued with warmth and love. It was one of 52 US homes run by the Little Sisters of the Poor, but they sold off many as the number of nuns in their ranks dropped. In June 2021, St. Joseph's was bought by the private equity firm Portopiccolo Group, which now operates 130 homes. The home's aquarium and aviary were pulled, and the quality of food sharply decreased. More concerningly, care allegedly declined, with Rafiei writing of "briefs so saturated with urine they’d turned brown" by the time they were changed in the morning. As Rafiei explains, staffing tends to be the top operating expense, so when private equity steps in, staffing is usually cut. Prior to the sale, the home managed to keep its COVID count to four infections and no deaths; in Portopiccolo's first four months, there were 17 infections and 6 deaths. (Read the full story here.)

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