A Glaring Gap in Nursing Staff Levels at Nursing Homes

The government recently adopted a more accurate measurement for determining when a nursing home has sufficient staffing levels and the results show a glaring problem across the nursing home industry. According to Kaiser Health News, the new method of recording hospital staffing shows a 12 percent decrease in hospital staffs. Further, there seems to be a severe fluctuation at many nursing homes which have sufficient nurses during the week but insufficient staff on the weekends. The new evidence shows that despite the minimal Medicaid requirements on the nursing staff levels at nursing homes, many nursing homes are still failing.

Under the previous method for calculating nursing staff, nursing homes would be required to provide all payroll information for the previous two weeks and government regulators would tally and report on the number of nurses employed during that time period. Because nursing homes sometimes knew when an inspection would occur ahead of time, this method was not generally considered accurate. Under the new method for calculating nursing staff, which Medicare began in April of this year, nursing homes must provide a report to Medicaid on staffing throughout the entire year.

This more comprehensive and accurate approach shows a serious compliance problem with Medicaid’s nursing staffing requirements. Medicaid does not provide an “optimal” nursing to patient ratio and merely requires that each nursing home have a single registered nurse at the facility at least eight hours each day and a single licensed nurse at the facility at all times. This bare requirement, however, is not even being followed – according to the latest Medicaid report, almost 25 percent of facilities reported going at least one day in the last three months without having a registered nurse at their facility.

The report also shows a glaring discrepancy between staffing levels on the weekdays and weekends. According to Medicaid, the average nursing home has twice as many nurses on a weekday – despite the fact that many patients still need assistance bathing, eating, and moving each day. One resident told the health magazine that his New York nursing home was “almost like a ghost town” on weekends and described wandering through the halls looking for assistance. When asked to respond to the news report, a representative for the nursing home industry told Kaiser Health News that fewer nurses are needed on weekends because there is a reduction in planned activities.

The attorneys are Gallivan & Gallivan work to protect the rights of nursing home residents.  Contact us today if you have a potential case involving neglect or abuse at a nursing home.

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