August 6, 2018 Elder Abuse

senior woman in nursing home clasped hand

Recent federal data suggests that most nursing homes had fewer workers on staff than they had self-reported to federal agencies. The news confirms the suspicions of many residents of long-term care facilities and their family members and puts residents at risk.

Data shows nursing homes overstate staffing

The recent data comes from an analysis by Kaiser Health News, which reviewed daily staffing reports from 14,000 nursing homes, which in the past had been unavailable but which are now being provided in accordance with requirements under the Affordable Care Act of 2010. The review indicates that many nursing homes’ ratings under the government’s five-star rating program, which is based on self-reported data, often exaggerated the level of staffing.

Not only does the analysis show that the nursing home staffing numbers differ from what facilities represented to the government, but in many cases they fell below the minimum required. Medicare does not set a minimum ratio of staff to residents, but it does require that each facility have a registered nurse present at least eight hours per day, and a licensed nurse present at all times. Even facilities that Medicare has granted high ratings for staffing levels fell short on meeting these requirements. In just the last three months of 2017, one out of every four nursing homes did not have a nurse on staff for at least one day.

Pitfalls of short staffing in nursing facilities

Though Medicare has rejected pleas that it set minimum staffing ratios, federal data shows that one out of every eight facilities has been cited for inadequate staffing. Industry observers point out that when there is inadequate staff, overworked employees need to focus on immediate tasks like feeding residents, while foregoing other necessary but seemingly less pressing tasks like moving residents to prevent bedsores. Unsurprisingly, residents in short-handed nursing homes are more likely to suffer complications like bedsores, infections, malnutrition, dehydration, weight loss, and pneumonia.

Under staffing has been such a big problem in some California nursing homes that residents in Cupertino are taking action. Last June, a class action lawsuit was filed on behalf of Robert Barbendel against Cupertino Healthcare & Wellness Center, alleging that the chain of over a dozen nursing and rehabilitation facilities intentionally violates laws by admitting new residents without informing them that there is inadequate staff to care for them. The complaint alleges that the nursing facilities under staff in order to net a larger profit.

Holding nursing homes in Southern California accountable

The Cupertino lawsuit is one approach to holding nursing homes accountable for not maintaining safe staff ratios. When residents have been harmed by neglect due to under staffing, they or their loved ones may be entitled to file a lawsuit. If you or a loved one have suffered injuries due to nursing home neglect in California, speak with a Los Angeles nursing home abuse lawyer at the Salamati Law Firm. If you have concerns about a loved one’s nursing home injuries, call 855-544-0776 today to schedule a free consultation.

Additional nursing home under staffing resources:

  1. New York Times, ‘It’s Almost Like a Ghost Town.’ Most Nursing Homes Overstated Staffing for Years, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/07/health/nursing-homes-staffing-medicare.html
  2. Mercury News, Lawsuit accuses Cupertino nursing home of under staffing to increase profit, https://www.mercurynews.com/2018/07/30/lawsuit-accuses-cupertino-nursing-home-of-understaffing-to-increase-profit/
  3. Journal of the National Medical Association, Understaffed Nursing Homes Affecting Patients, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2594332/pdf/jnma00322-0014b.pdf