Local nursing homes receive federal funding | coronavirus

Twenty-one Luzerne County nursing homes were awarded more than three-quarters of a million dollars from a national federal fund set up to reward facilities that have lower COVID-19 infection and death rates compared to overall rates within the county they are located.

The Nursing Home Quality Incentive Program was launched in September as part of the government’s efforts to encourage nursing homes to aggressively employ mitigation strategies to halt the spread of the virus.

Congress earmarked $2 billion for the fund, which is administered by the Department of Health and Human Services. The funds are being distributed in several phases based on the homes’ performance from September to December.

As of Jan. 25, HHS distributed $854.4 million to nursing homes nationwide that met standards in September and October, including $24 million to 895 facilities in Pennsylvania.

In Luzerne County, 21 homes qualified for $784,665 in aid, with Highland Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Exeter receiving the most with $73,716.

It was followed by The Pavilion at St. Luke Village in Hazleton, with $71,904.

Among the other Luzerne County nursing homes that got funding were Guardian Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center in Nanticoke, which received $62,118, Mountain Top Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center, which received $57,013, Allied Services Center City Skilled Nursing, which received $30,154, and Wesley Village in Pittston, which received $22,323.

Eligibility for the incentive was determined based on an analysis of data nursing homes submit to several federal databases. HHS officials utilized a complex formula to assess each facility’s performance and the amount of payment. Generally speaking, homes qualified if the number of infections and deaths fell below the expected number of infections, given the infection/death rate in their county.

Jim Brogna, spokesman for Allied Services, said it has steadfastly followed state and federal guidance since the pandemic began in March.

“We are inspired by the commitment of our health care heroes who’ve fought tirelessly for the past 11 months,” Brogna said in an email. “They are all to be commended for the quality care provided and protection of our residents and patients.”

Dr. Richard Feifer, medical director for Genesis — whose Riverstreet Manor in Wilkes-Barre received $13,962 — said its homes also have followed guidelines and in many cases adopted even more stringent infection precautions.

“We are very proud of the hard work and dedication our leadership and center staff have shown throughout this entire pandemic,” Feifer said in an email.

JAMES HALPIN, staff writer, contributed to this report.