During and in the wake of the pandemic, we have talked about one of the biggest areas in which most nursing homes fall short: staffing. Often nursing homes struggle to find qualified nursing candidates. But they also experience staffing shortages because of simply ignoring the needs of their residents. For years, a lack of the appropriate number of staff to suitably and safely take care of all residents has plagued nursing homes. And the pandemic only served to highlight, and even worsen, those conditions.
“If we can finally get this accomplished, it’s not going to solve all the problems, but it’s going to make a big difference.”– Charlene Harrington, Professor Emeritus at the University of California at San Francisco
As a result, the Biden administration proposed legislation that would set a national staffing minimum for nursing homes. Though this plan is taking time to make its way through the legal process, we are seeing progress, and are excited to give an update to the nursing home staffing regulations.
An Overview of the Staffing Issue
“…lawsuits, state inspections, academic studies and government reports have continued to show the negative impact of low nursing staff levels on quality.”– Washington Post
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.” This amount of care is the minimum to ensure proper hygiene, adequate supervision, and the prevention of bedsores and falls.
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. This care deficit has a variety of causes, some of which would only be fixed by a very serious look at, and overhaul of, the nursing home system as a whole. But for now, creating staffing regulations that ensure quality care is a good start.
Support Nursing Home Staffing Regulations
To meet the minimum 4.1 hours of nursing care per day, an estimated 187,000 nurses would need to be hired. This is a daunting number to an industry already struggling to find employees and limit employee turnover. Additionally, the Washington Post reports that this influx of new employees would cost nearly $10 billion per year. These facts threaten the workability of new staffing regulations, with nursing homes and industry professionals saying that most nursing homes would continue to fall short of the staffing requirements without the proper support.
The counterargument is that the industry needs to rethink the way it uses the funds already afforded it by Medicare. Either way, whether we are supporting the implementation of staffing regulations that would make nursing homes safer, or advocating for a better overall system, we should support the regulations that offer the best care for aging Americans.
The simple fact is, staffing in nursing homes across America is dangerously proportioned; one Washington nursing home had only 4 nursing staff on the day shift to care for 110 residents. This is unfair to staff who have an enormous and incredibly vital job of caring for patients’ everyday needs, and residents who suffer from inadequate care. Supporting the regulations is just one way to help hold nursing homes accountable.
The Biden administration is set to release an official rule for nursing home staffing regulations in early 2023.
If you or a loved one have been a victim of nursing home abuse or neglect, call Gharibian Law (877-875-1119) today for a free consultation and the best legal representation.