Nursing Homes Understaffed at Height of Coronavirus Pandemic

NY Elder Law attorney discusses how adequate staffing prevents infections and neglect.

Good Morning. I am Bob Friedman attorney with Friedman & Ranzenhofer, PC. Welcome to the November 17th, 2020 edition of the Legal Survival Channel: Today’s Legal News You Can Use.

Numerous studies have identified staffing as a strong predictor of nursing home resident outcomes during the COVID-19 pandemic. Better staffing not only helps prevent and control infections but also protects nursing home residents from the devastating effects of neglect and isolation. The Long Term Care Community Coalition (LTCCC) announced yesterday the publication of the latest user-friendly data on staffing for every U.S. nursing home in compliance with mandatory reporting requirements. This information can help the public, news media, and policymakers identify and assess the extent to which nursing homes provided sufficient staffing to meet basic clinical and quality of life needs.

The data are for the most recent period reported by the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). Unfortunately, the latest federal data indicate that most nursing home facilities were understaffed at the height of the pandemic: the 2nd quarter of 2020 (Q2 2020). Despite receiving billions of dollars in COVID relief aid, too many nursing homes failed to invest in staff to meet their residents’ needs. LTCCC’s Q2 2020 staffing report provides easy-to-use files for every state that include:

1) The levels of care staff that a nursing home facility has for its residents;

2) Staffing levels for important non-nursing staff, including administrators and activities staff; and

3) The extent to which the nursing home facility relies on contract workers to provide resident care.

The national staffing averages for Q2 2020 are 3.46 total care staff hours per resident day (HPRD) and 0.45 RN care staff HPRD. These averages fall short of the amount of time needed to ensure that residents receive clinical care (4.10 hours total care staff HPRD and 0.75 RN HPRD), according to a landmark 2001 federal study.

Facilities experienced a dramatic decrease in resident population since the start of the pandemic. The average facility census declined from 86.6 to 79.4 (8.3%) from Q4 2019 to Q2 2020.

Nursing home facilities are prone to significant fluctuation in staffing and often have very low staffing on weekends and holidays.  Even though the report accounts for staffing fluctuations by averaging all observations, data on staffing for specific days can be found by searching for a nursing home in the CMS dataset.

Contact the experienced New York Elder Law attorneys at Friedman & Ranzenhofer, PC at 716.542.5444 if you have questions about the rights of nursing home residents.

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