Butler County nursing home receives $400K in coronavirus funds to help struggling budget

The Butler County Care Facility has received more than $400,000 in federal coronavirus relief funding to deal with the pandemic.

The financially fragile nursing home cannot use the funds to shore up its chronically weak budget, but Commissioner Don Dixon said “it all helps” when trying to deal with the pandemic.

The $410,796 in funds were only recently received, and nursing home administrator Chamika Poole said she is still working with county Finance Director Angel Burton to determine what are allowable expenses for the federal funds.

Poole has had to hire more staff to deal with extra precautions and has purchased personal protective equipment like masks, gloves, goggles, gowns, cleaning supplies and other items needed to control the virus.

“While a specific plan for the HHS/Care Facility Funds has not been determined and approved, possible uses include COVID-19 testing expenses not covered by insurance, supplies and agency staffing costs related to the COVID-19 response,” Burton said.

The 109-bed facility is one of about 20 county-run nursing homes left in Ohio. The nursing homes were previously mandated in all 88 counties, but many of the facilities closed after the state legislature lifted the mandate, and counties opted to let the private sector handle nursing care as government budgets shrank.

Poole said so far only one person has tested positive for the coronavirus. Visitors are still not allowed at the facility, and they have stringent protocols for staff and others coming and going.

“We monitor signs and symptoms daily upon entrance, and have limited visitation to necessary personnel or those for end of life situations,” Poole said. “We have trained staff, residents and families on early signs and symptoms as well as on mode of transmission. We also train on the importance of standard infection control precautions such as hand washing to prevent the spread of disease.”

The county commissioners have routinely had to give the nursing home cash infusions for a variety of reasons. They approved a $300,000 loan to the home in January after a $300,000 subsidy in December. Multiple issues, from ever-changing Medicaid regulations and rates to internal reimbursement processing problems, have hampered operations at the home that has been financially fragile for years.

Commissioners authorized payments totaling $450,000 in 2018. The facility needed $425,000 from the general fund the prior year, and in 2016 the commissioners had to loan it $225,000 so payroll could be met through the end of the year. At one time, the county nursing home owed the general fund $1.1 million, a debt the home partially repaid.

At the beginning of the pandemic County Administrator Judi Boyko warned the commissioners another cash infusion might be needed because reimbursements from Medicaid and Medicare were delayed. In April she said the home’s expenses were about $1 million over revenues.

Burton said her staff is in the process of tabulating a new deficit estimate.

Whether another general fund boost will be necessary is still unclear, according to Boyko.

“We’re still monitoring the financial situation of the facility on a monthly basis,” she said. “Right now they seem to be good. We are cautiously optimistic.”

Despite the financial drain, the commissioners have staunchly backed keeping the Care Facility.

“The goal has always been to break even but we made the commitment, we’re going to take care of the ones that don’t have anything, nowhere to go, no family, no nothing, no money,” Dixon said recently. “That’s been the county mission and we’re staying with it.”

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