Faced with “unprecedented financial challenges”, the Minister of Social Development and Seniors, Tinée Furbert told MPs on Friday that three nursing homes will receive urgent funding to the tune of $508.000.

According to the Minister, the biggest grant will go to Lorraine Rest Home in Warwick for $300,000, Packwood Home will get$123,000 and Matilda Smith-Williams Seniors Residence will receive $85,000.

“As you can imagine, the operations of many nursing homes in Bermuda have been significantly impacted by the death tolls of their senior residents,” said Ms Furbert.

“Many of these homes experienced not only an increase in resident deaths, but temporary cessation of day care services, along with a suspension of new client admissions.

“It must be noted that the introduction of these necessary health protocols, intended to stop the transmission of COVID-19 in the residential care homes, has had a significant impact on the current and future operations of these crucially important facilities,” she added.

“On February 7, 2022, according to the Bermuda COVID-19 Ministry of Health dashboard, there were 11,058 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 10,628 recovered.

“At the time, 119 deaths were recorded. The age group of 60-79 year olds recorded 47 deaths (39%) due to COVID-19 and the age group of 80 and above recorded 45 deaths or 38% of the total number of deaths attributed to COVID-19.”

The Minister also stressed that “it is important to note that in addition to the loss of revenue from the fees collected by the nursing homes, these facilities also had increased expenses due to a rise in spending for medical supplies, personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks, gloves, and gowns etc and additional cleaning supplies need for sanitization”.

“Adding to the problem, these care facilities also experienced staff burnout, and staff shortages due to sickness and quarantine rules that led to many homes having to hire additional staff further constraining their already limited and taxed operations,” she said.

“Consequently, these challenges created a knock on effect that continue to impact the financial viability of many of these facilities on our Island today.

“Currently, there is a global trend that many nursing home/care facilities are contemplating closing or have closed due to the financial hardships and staff shortages.

“The stark reality is that many nursing homes, including Bermuda’s facilities, were already operating at a deficit prior to the COVID-19 pandemic with some facilities still struggling to keep their doors open.”

The possible closures of these facilities, she said, would have resulted in the following number of seniros as of December 31, 2021, being displaced:

  • Packwood Home a 30-bed facility was at 60% capacity with 18 occupying residents
  • Lorraine Rest Home was operating at 77% capacity with 23 residents in its 30-bed facility
  • and Matilda Smith had 18 occupying residents or at 75% capacity in its 24- bed facility

Ms Furbert also noted that during fiscal year 2021/22, her Ministry was authorized to provide a total of $2.69 million in grants and contributions to various entities.

“The three nursing homes were awarded annual grants in the following amounts, Packwood Home $300,000; Matilda Smith $225,000 and Lorraine Rest Home $825,000.”

She met with representatives of the three nursing homes in February, to get a handle on “the true viability of each entity, and what was each organization’s immediate next steps to mitigate the situation”.

“The homes had already faced lower occupancy levels due to outbreaks, limited admissions due to the various restrictions, increased staff sick pay, and the suspension of day care programs,” Ms Furbert said.

“The representatives indicated that these challenges were added to the ever-present issues of resident’s inability to cover the full costs of their fees and increasing staffing costs.

“The representatives stated that in order for these homes to remain operational they would have had to reduce staff client ratios, decrease staffing hours, and make other operational changes.

“Providing nursing home care to a resident can cost as much as $12,000 per month. However, these three nursing homes are charging, at least on average, $5,000 per month.

“Figures received for  this month (July 2022) has indicated that the Department of Financial Assistance has paid a total of $555,466.74 to the nursing homes for one hundred and forty-six (146) seniors.

“These care homes have now commenced mitigation measures to realize cost savings.”

Moving forward, she said, all standard grants awarded to care homes by the Ministry of Social Development and Seniors will now have specific conditions attached that include, but are not limited to:

  • participating in the BHeC (Bermuda Health Council) financial audit
  • maintaining their charity status; and
  • maintaining their compliance with regulatory standards

The Minister also stated that community partners and the third sector were “reaching out to support the financial burden that is being felt by this vulnerable group in our community”.

“The Government cannot do it alone and we encourage passionate members of the community and organizations to continue to participate in contributing ideas to develop a shared vision for health and social care reform for seniors,” said the Minister.

“We must rethink and restructure how facilities are financed as the reimbursement system is inadequate across the board.”

More in subsequent reports.