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The Consequence of Understaffing at Nursing Homes

Posted on August 6, 2018
by Benjamin R. Zimmermann

Benjamin R. Zimmermann
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According to new federal data, most nursing homes have been underreporting their staffing levels to the government for the past decade. It was discovered that seven out of ten nursing homes had lower staffing levels than what had been previously reported, with a 12% decrease on average. Low staffing was found to be particularly severe and prevalent on weekends. According to Kaiser Health News, “On the worst-staffed days at an average facility, the new data show, on-duty personnel cared for nearly twice as many residents as they did when the staffing roster was fullest.”

Previously, the government’s staffing ratings of nursing homes had relied upon self-reported staffing levels for the two weeks before an inspection was to take place. However, the flaws of this method were made apparent when Medicare recently began gathering and publishing data from the daily payroll records of more than 14,000 nursing homes, as required by the Affordable Care Act of 2010. This payroll data was then analyzed by Kaiser Health News, revealing that the government’s rating system for nursing homes had been masking the dangerous reality of staffing levels. As a result of these findings, in April, the government started using the daily payroll reports to calculate average staffing ratings.

When nursing homes do not have enough nurses and caretaking staff, residents inevitably suffer. Essential tasks such as repositioning a patient to avoid bedsores, attending to bedbound residents to prevent falls, and simply noting changes in residents’ behaviors or conditions can all easily be overlooked when nursing home staff members are overburdened and rushed. Numerous studies show that nursing homes with lower staffing tend to have more health code violations.

Over one million people in America reside in skilled nursing homes, and many suffer from neglect that results from understaffing and inattention. SUGARMAN’s team of personal injury attorneys has extensive experience representing clients who have been harmed as a result of such negligent treatment. If you or a loved one has been injured, please fill out a Contact Form, call us at 617-542-1000 or email info@sugarman.com for a free consultation.