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Nursing Homes Woefully Understaffed, Study Finds

  • February 20th, 2002

A draft federal study has found that 9 out of 10 nursing homes are so short-staffed that patient care is suffering.

The New York Times reports that the the study, prepared by the Department of Health and Human Servicesss, found that in 2000 more than 91 percent of nursing homes had nurse aide staffing levels below the thresholds required to provide adequate care. [April 2002 update: The study, titled "Appropriateness of Minimum Nurse Staffing Ratios in Nursing Homes, Report to Congress: Phase II" (March 2002), has been obtained by Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-CA), and is available for download at http://www.house.gov/reform/min/inves_nursing/nursing_cms_rep.htm.]

According to the report, nursing homes should have one nurse's aide for every five or six residents from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. It is now common for nursing homes to have one aide for every 8 to 14 residents. Nurse's aides provide almost all of the front-line care in nursing homes, helping patients with eating, dressing, going to the bathroom, and getting regular exercise.

The report found 'strong and compelling' evidence that understaffed nursing homes were more likely to provide poor care. Patients in those homes were at greater risk of bedsores, malnutrition, weight loss, dehydration, pneumonia and serious infections.

The report calls explicitly for 'some minimum staffing ratio to protect nursing home residents.' Consumer groups have also called for minimum staffing levels, saying that more employees will save money and lives by preventing unnecessary hospitalizations. But the Bush administration says it has no plans to impose such minimum standards, citing the additional costs that nursing homes would incur if they had to hire more help. The administration hopes that market forces will solve the problem and that nursing homes can wring more productivity from their current staffs.

Local Elder Law Attorneys in Ashburn, VA

Jeffrey Hammond

Hammond and Associates, LLC, Elder Law, Estate Planning, Wills, Trusts, Probate
Bethesda, MD

Samantha Fredieu

Hale Ball Carlson Baumgartner Murphy PLC
Fairfax, VA

Jean Ball

Hale Ball Carlson Baumgartner Murphy PLC
Fairfax, VA

Last Modified: 02/20/2002

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