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3News Investigates: Some Ohio nursing homes won't survive another year

3News investigator Rachel Polansky exposes another issue facing nursing homes and their vulnerable patients.

OHIO, USA — In April, 3News investigator Rachel Polansky's efforts led health officials to reveal how the Coronavirus was overwhelming long term care facilities.

Fast forward four months and Rachel is back with a new issue facing nursing homes and their vulnerable patients. 2,600 patients patients have died of COVID-19 complications in Ohio's nursing homes.

That's about 65 percent of Ohio's total deaths.

“We've gotten through the really rough seas,” said Pete Van Runkle, Ohio Health Care Association.

Pete Van Runkle heads the Ohio Health Care Association, which represents more than 1,000 long term care facilities in the state. He says the worst is over for residents. Now, nursing homes are feeling the financial struggle.

“The costs have gone up operating during a pandemic,” said Van Runkle. “Some of our members have had to hire more staff because of turnover.  There’s also the increased cost of PPE, and having to buy more than ever before.”

As a result of the virus and skyrocketing PPE prices, Van Runkle says the cost of operating a long-term care facility has drastically increased, making it much harder for some to stay open.

“We have seen a few facilities close in Ohio. Is that pandemic related? Is it not? You never know for sure,” said Van Runkle.

The American Health Care Association surveyed 460 nursing home providers. 72 percent of them say they won’t survive another year operating at this pace. 55 percent say they're currently operating at a loss.

One thing that hasn't changed is isolation.

Visits remain restricted to outdoors, and for many, it's their only contact with their family.

“The visitation has been going well. The families have been very understanding about protocol and security measures we have to take to protect residents and family members from exposure,” said Fred Stratmann, CommuniCare spokesperson.

CommuniCare operates 13 long term care facilities in Northeast Ohio. Four of them – Berea Alzheimer’s Care Center, Northwestern Healthcare in Berea, Lake Pointe Health Center in Lorain, and The Pines Healthcare Center in Canton – have not had any COVID-19 cases to date.

Meanwhile, this petition that was created in Ohio is circulating with more than 9,000 signatures to let family back into long term care facilities.

3News Investigates is being told those talks are already taking place, and nursing homes are expected to open for indoor visitation sometime in the Fall.