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Biden Administration Seeks Minimum Staffing Requirements in Nursing Homes

woman in wheelchair at nursing home with low staffing levels

Staffing problems frequently lead to nursing home abuse and neglect.

For decades, nursing homes throughout the United States have faced a shortage of front-line nurses and nursing staff, which many have linked to nursing home neglect that led to serious health complications for residents. Now, the Biden administration is planning to announce a federal minimum staffing requirement for nursing homes to address the problem.

The rule is expected to be announced sometime in 2023 and will affect 15,500 nursing homes nationwide.

While the specific requirements are still unclear, a 2001 Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) report provides some insight. The report found that to prevent problems such as bed sores and falls, nursing homes should provide a minimum of 4.1 hours of care to each resident daily.

Resistance from the nursing home industry

This works out to one nurse for every seven residents on both day and evening shifts. Unfortunately, most facilities in the country fall short of those staffing levels.

The American Health Care Association, which represents the nursing home industry, is opposed to mandating staffing requirements. It says that the mandates would cost $10 billion and would not be possible to meet because of a shortage of workers.

It also says that government funding through Medicaid and other programs is inadequate to support those staffing levels. As a result, the industry estimates that 187,000 additional workers would be needed.

Xavier Becerra, the secretary of Health and Human Services, said the administration was motivated to take action after nearly 160,000 nursing home residents in the U.S. died of COVID-19 during the pandemic, which revealed the problem of staffing ratios.

Evidence of inadequate staffing and its dangerous effects can be found in lawsuits and enforcement actions throughout the country.

  • In California, a jury awarded $13.5 million to a resident's family after their lawyer argued the resident's death was the result of a failure to provide adequate staffing.
  • In Washington, a state inspector cited multiple examples of substandard care at a facility due to an insufficient number of nurses and nursing assistants.
  • In Detroit, an inspection report documented the experience of residents at a facility who didn't receive medications during one weekend in August and could not locate any nursing staff members to help. Some called 911.

If you suspect nursing home neglect, get legal advice from an attorney you can trust.

The Biden Administration is conducting a new analysis of nursing homes to determine the national staffing minimum.

"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," said Charlene Harrington, a professor emeritus at the University of California at San Francisco. She has researched the impact of staff size and training on nursing home quality.

Residents of facilities that do not provide adequate care often suffer harm or wrongful death due to falls, bedsores, poor hygiene, dehydration, malnutrition, and other types of neglect.

When nursing homes fail to meet their responsibility to meet the needs of the residents in their care, they need to be held accountable. But the legal process can be complicated.

If you suspect a loved one was the victim of nursing home neglect in Alabama, Shuttlesworth Law Firm LLC can help. Contact us to schedule a free consultation.

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