19 Detroit nursing homes require upgrades to remain open

by | Aug 10, 2012

Nineteen of Detroit’s 32 nursing homes must upgrade or install sprinkler systems by next summer to be certified and continue to receive the funding they need to stay open, according to a new study on aging, long-term care and dying.

The same study, as detailed in Sunday’s Free Press, portends an increasing need for nursing home care for city residents. The study, which will be released today by the Detroit Area Agency on Aging, is titled “Dying Before Their Time.” It shows that elderly people in Detroit and eight smaller, neighboring communities, are dying faster, being hospitalized more often and in need of nursing home care sooner than their counterparts in the rest of the state.

Detroit has lost 16 nursing homes in 13 years, and more than half of the city’s remaining nursing homes are struggling to remain open.

“We have not built a brand new nursing home from the ground up since the 1960s,” said Paul Bridgewater, CEO of the aging agency. “There used to be 50. But they face a lot of challenges, primarily because they get Medicaid reimbursement.”

Most of Detroit’s nursing home patients are covered by the state-run Medicaid system of health care for poor people.

“Detroit loses out on $120 million in (federal) Medicare dollars that (the nursing homes) could potentially charge, but do not charge because they do not meet Medicare certifications,” Bridgewater said. “The Medicare certification is an intense process, and many of the facilities are comfortable with just Medicaid reimbursements.”

‘Everything goes up’

Don’t use the word “comfortable” around Todd Johnson. The administrator of Law-Den Nursing Home in Detroit is unhappy with the sprinkler mandate. His home will be reimbursed for installing the fire-safety system, but not any time soon.

“You’re forcing me to spend $40,000 to $100,000, and you won’t be reimbursing me for two years?” Johnson said. “I’m running my building on a 2010 audit, so I’m not going to see that money for two years, and some nursing homes won’t survive that long.

“You’re always behind the gun,” Johnson said, “so while they’re giving you old money, you’re trying to meet new costs.

“Everything goes up. Food is out of control. … I hope we survive. But the city will lose some nursing homes.”

Getting old younger

The nursing home crisis couldn’t come at a worse time. Poor health and chronic illnesses are aging younger Detroit residents to the point where, in the city, 50 to 59 is the new post-65.

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