Empty beds make care center – that’s how it is for the others

While the Baden Regional Care Center (While RPB) is still struggling with empty beds and short-time work, the other larger retirement centers in the region are once again much better utilized. Deficits nevertheless remain.

The second wave in November 2020 hit the Regional Care Center hard

The second wave in November 2020 hit the Regional Care Center hard.

Of the 430 or so employees at the Regional Care Center in Baden (RPB), around 15 percent have been on short-time working for the past year. The second Corona wave from November 2020 in particular hit the RPB hard. Many residents fell ill, "quite a few died of or with Corona," according to the 2020 annual report. The severe Corona outbreak meant that many beds could not be reoccupied.

According to Daniel Sommerhalder, Head of Marketing, bed occupancy is still below the usual level more than a year after the drastic surge. This circumstance – so much seems clear – has a negative impact on the business figures. The figures for 2021 will not be published until spring, and the RPB closed the 2020 fiscal year with a deficit of just over 1.5 million francs.

The RPB had no choice but to go to the Office of Economic Affairs to apply for short-time work. "If five of 20 beds in a department remain empty, then we have to reduce the number of staff there," Sommerhalder gives an example.

While there used to be waiting lists, the opposite has been the case since the pandemic: "In the first two waves, many people thought twice about whether they should give their mother or father to our institution or wait," says Sommerhalder. In addition, home offices had made it possible for people in need of care to be looked after at home.

In order not to have to lay off anyone, they are relying on short-time work. "Of course, we don’t want to lose any know-how, if only because of the acute shortage of skilled workers in the care sector. We are doing everything we can to be able to keep our staff," adds Sommerhalder.

"Home Advantage" campaign co-developed to reduce fears

Last summer, the company was only too happy to help develop and support the "Home Advantage" campaign of Vaka, the association of Aargau homes, in order to allay fears among the population. On posters that could be seen all over Aargau, residents of the home were quoted with sentences such as "At last I have found jass colleagues again". "The point was to show that you are not locked in a care center even during the corona pandemic," Sommerhalder explains.

And even if it is hardly possible to measure an effect directly from this, he believes, the campaign was successful for the nursing institutions. RPB now sees light at the end of the tunnel: "We are noticing a steady improvement in bed occupancy and are convinced that short-time work can be ended in the spring. The situation is beginning to return to normal."

Kehl also had to announce short-time work

The Kehl retirement center in Baden

The Kehl retirement center in Baden.

The second larger retirement center in Baden, Kehl, also had to announce short-time work last year, but only for one month. From March to July 2021, deaths had accumulated, "but not in direct connection with Covid-19," explains managing director Florian Immer. The fact that the beds were not immediately reoccupied, on the other hand, is indirectly related to Covid-19: "The willingness to enter an old people’s home was not very pronounced during this period."

Up to eight of the 68 beds remained empty for several months. Florian Immer identifies three reasons for this: the "insinuation" of being locked up in the old people’s home, the fear of catching Corona, especially here, and the home office obligation, which "also made it possible to look after one’s parents on the side". In the meantime, however, full capacity utilization has been achieved again. Nevertheless:

The year 2020 closed the Kehl with a plus despite Corona. The annual financial statement for 2021 is still in the works, but according to Florian Immer, it will probably also close just positive. He speaks of having escaped with a black eye from a financial point of view.

"Massive and unsightly deficit"

The Gassliacker retirement center in Obersiggenthal

The retirement center Gassliacker in Obersiggenthal.

Gassliacker also got off lightly, says Esther Egger, president of the foundation that runs the retirement center. Short-time work was never an issue, and occupancy is now back at practically 100 percent. In the 2020 annual report, she wrote that the financial consequences of the pandemic would show up in a slightly lower occupancy rate than in past years, at 98 percent.

Esther Egger is president of the foundation board of Gassliacker and president of the Aargau Seniors' Association

Esther Egger is President of the Board of Trustees of the Gassliacker and President of the Aargau Seniors’ Association.

When the number of cases increased at the end of 2020, the residents and nursing staff of the Gassliacker were also more affected, which had led to a renewed closure of the home and "brought the affected departments to the edge of what was possible, of their strength and resources," as the annual report further states.

Gassliacker recorded losses especially in the first quarter of 2021. "There were only a few deaths due to Corona now, but the residents’ length of stay is getting shorter anyway, because people are entering later and later and are more in need of care," says Egger. The decisive factor at Gassliacker was also that many elderly people did not want to go to a nursing home during this time, which meant that the beds could not be filled.

Esther Egger describes the deficit incurred as "massive and very unattractive. However, short-time work would still not have been possible". For the registration of short-time work it needs a certain percentage of lack of work for the staff and for this it was not enough in spite of everything.

For nursing homes anyway, she would consider a corona aid more appropriate, as they were commonplace in the economy. But up to now, the government council has not listened to it. Egger:

This is all the more shocking, he said, because the government council gave the nursing homes on 20. December "contrary to his information in the spring of 2021" another time actually denied cost-covering rates, according to the foundation president.

St.Bernhard was always busy

Peter Wyss is the managing director of the St.Bernhard retirement center

Peter Wyss is the managing director of the retirement center St.Bernhard.

Due to an outbreak of corona, the Wettingen retirement center St.Bernhard only just isolated a department. Since last Saturday it is again open. But in the meantime more floors had to be isolated. Despite major outbreaks in the past two pandemic years, the st.Bernhard not a single Corona death so far.

According to store manager Peter Wyss, it was possible to make money in the St.Bernhard, in which 94 people in need of care and elderly people live, never complain about a lack of capacity utilization. Short-time working was therefore never an issue at all. "We hardly ever had empty beds," says Wyss.

For the new building, which is scheduled for completion in the spring of 2022, there is also already a large demand. There will be room for 140 residents.

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