Proposed Budget Gives Ohio Department Of Health More Power To Shutter “Unsafe” Nursing Homes

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (Statehouse News Bureau) — More than half of the state’s COVID-19 deaths coming from nursing homes. So those and other long term care facilities are getting a lot of attention in the new state budget.

Signs reading "We're all in this together" decorate the windows of a nursing home facility in northeast Columbus.
Signs reading “We’re all in this together” decorate the windows of a nursing home facility in northeast Columbus. [Karen Kasler | Statehouse News Bureau]
The Patient Protection proposal in the budget would give the Ohio Department of Health the power to shut down nursing homes deemed unsafe.

Pete Van Runkle heads the group that lobbies for nursing homes. He said ODH already can do that by going to court, so he’s concerned about giving the agency more power.

“It’s a serious issue, because if you’re if you’re moving people out of a facility, there is a certain amount of trauma involved with that and relocation to potentially farther away from family members and things of that nature.” Van Runkle said. “So, something would have to be looked at very carefully before that, before that kind of authority is given to the department.”

The budget also would set aside $50 million for the state to buy unused beds to cut down on shared rooms. About 11,000 beds, or 20% of all capacity, were unused before the pandemic. A fact sheet on the state budget says of this initiative: “As Ohioans demand more community-based care options, this initiative will help rebalance the services available and improve the quality of care for all Ohioans, regardless of setting.”

Van Runkle said of that: “We’re well aware of the bed buyback program, which we we have actually proposed ourselves several times in the past.”

The budget also proposes lowering occupancy rates with more Medicaid waivers so people can get care at home.