Study: Nursing Home Deaths Tied To Staffing Levels

A new study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society concludes that nursing homes with low staffing levels, low quality scores, and high concentrations of disadvantaged residents also experience “higher rates of confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths.”

The study’s lead author, Yue Li, a professor at the University of Rochester Medical Center Department of Public Health Sciences, said in a statement: “In nursing homes, quality and staffing are important factors, and there already exists system-wide disparities in which facilities with lower resources and higher concentrations of socio-economically disadvantaged residents have poorer health outcomes… These same institutional disparities are now playing out during the coronavirus pandemic.”

The study notes that long-term care facility residents are demonstrably vulnerable to respiratory diseases like influenza and coronaviruses, and that research suggests COVID-19 “disproportionately impacts older adults and individuals with chronic health conditions.” This makes nursing homes, which have high concentrations of elderly adults with chronic health conditions, especially vulnerable to COVID-19. Since the pandemic reached the United States, roughly 50,000 deaths related to the novel coronavirus “have been linked to nursing homes,” according to the study.

The study draws on data released by the Connecticut Department of Health and Human Services and by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which tracks the quality and staffing levels of nursing homes across the United States. It found a correlation between nursing homes with high rates of disadvantaged residents, lower staffing levels, and lower quality scores, and those with increased COVID-19 case rates and death rates. “Higher nurse staffing ratios in particular was strongly associated with fewer cases and deaths,” it concluded.

According to Dr. Li: “In most nursing homes, RNs are the linchpin for the assessment and provision of medical care, including early identification of and response to emergencies and life threatening situations.” He went on to describe findings of a “strong negative association” between Registered Nurse staffing levels and COVID-19 case rates and death rates. What these findings suggest, he said, is that higher nursing levels are essential to the prevention or mitigation of infectious disease outbreaks in nursing homes. According to a press release by the University of Rochester Medical Center, the study’s authors suggest that federal and state nursing home regulators and inspectors should apply scrutiny to nursing homes with low RN staffing levels and low quality ratings.

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Thomas L. Gallivan, PLLC work diligently to protect the rights of nursing home residents.  Please contact us to discuss in the event you have a potential case involving neglect or abuse.

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