Understaffing is no secret to anyone who has experience in the nursing home and care industry. It’s a topic we’ve covered extensively, and an issue addressed by the Biden Administrations provisions. Recently the Senate Special Committee on Aging released a report entitled “Uninspected and Neglected: Nursing Home Agencies are Severely Understaffed, Putting Residents at Risk.” This report detailed the staffing crisis and identified some solutions moving forward.
During the research and compilation process for the Special Committee report, there was a hearing during which State Long-Term Care Ombudsman Leah McMahon testified. Across all states, the impact of staffing shortages have wreaked havoc on quality care, consistent abuse reports, transparency, and more. Staff is burning out and residents are suffering.
We’ve discussed this issue at length before, citing studies that show the disparity between ideal staffing to resident ratios and the reality of the current situation.
“A 2001 study conducted by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) found that nursing home staff should be able to dedicate 4.1 hours per day to each resident. This equals about “one nurse for every seven residents on day and evening shifts.”
At the beginning of the pandemic, a 2019 study found that only a third of nursing homes meet that minimum. That’s only 5,200 nursing homes out of the roughly 15,600 that serve nearly 1.5 million patients.”
From the Understaffing Report
Among other things, this report found the following:
- One-third of the 15,000 nursing homes in the United States are behind on their annual surveys, with 11% of homes not having had a survey in over two years.
- 31 of 52 state survey agencies are experiencing vacancy rates of 20% or higher, with nine survey agencies having vacancy rates over 50%.
- Low salaries and burnout lead to high staff turnover in state agencies, which results in inexperienced surveyors.
- Many states have turned to hiring third-party companies to conduct surveying activities and are paying exorbitant fees for their services. The report also calls for increased oversight of these third-party survey companies.
If real change is going to be made, real solutions need to be proposed. Additionally, there must be follow through and adequate monitoring of nursing homes to ensure they adhere to guidelines. In addition, other issues that contribute to understaffing need to be addressed in order to ensure sufficient and on-going education for all caregivers, fair wages, and quality care.
Some of the solutions proposed in the report:
- Increased funding from Congress. Funding for state survey agencies has been flat for years, despite calls for increases from both Presidents Trump and Biden.
- Congress and state governments should take action to support state surveyors, including providing educational opportunities and mental health support.
- Congress should increase funding for State Long-Term Care Ombudsman programs. The report relies heavily on input from Ombudsman program representatives and notes their critical role in advocating on behalf of residents and calls for increased funding for these critical programs.
We are grateful for the work being done to make much needed changes in the nursing home industry. It is reports like this one that will save lives and create working environments that support employees and good care for everyone.
If you or a loved one has been the victim of nursing home neglect or abuse, call Gharibian Law (877-460-1187) today for a FREE consultation and the best legal representation.