With about 1 million elderly residents, long-term care homes have emerged as incubators for Covid-19 outbreaks across the US. The virus has since swept from one nursing home to another across the country, leaping between patients and staff. It is not a coincidence that the industry is already notorious for creaming profits off while pleading poverty in order to pay low wages to a workforce overwhelmingly of women, usually African American, Hispanic or immigrant. Too often, they are forced to take more than one job to make a living, a factor that has helped spread the virus between care centers. Patients with symptoms were given masks but otherwise left sharing rooms with other elderly residents.
Through it all, some staff said the management was not taking the threat seriously enough. Many nursing home owners refuse to pay sick leave without a confirmed coronavirus diagnosis. Some are threatening to report caregivers for abandonment if they complain or fail to show up. Nursing staff are living in fear. Some of them are sick but they are pushing it because this is all that they have and they don’t have the means to just to walk away. They’re providing for their families. They don’t have any other options.
Nursing home owners blame low pay and poor working conditions on the economics of the industry, and not the siphoning of money to related sham corporate entities. About 70% of long-term care homes in the US are run for profit. The accounts of many nursing homes show slim profit margins because of unethical accounting tricks that obscures a widespread practice in the industry of bleeding income into the owners’ pockets through sub-leases, management contracts and other fees. A Kaiser Health News investigation in 2017 found that nearly three-quarters of nursing homes use financial arrangements intended to suck profits out of the businesses and make it look like costs by paying fees to firms in which their owners have an interest or control. It said the arrangements ranged from renting premises owned by a sister corporation to contracting out basic functions such as management. Trust me- they do quite well.