Biden Administration Proposes Minimum Staffing Rule to Combat Nursing Home Malpractice

The Biden administration has released a proposed rule requiring nursing homes to meet a minimum staffing level, a Washington Post article reports. The rule, said Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra, is intended to help address the persistent crisis of understaffing in American nursing homes and to ensure residents get a higher level of quality care.

If implemented, the rule, drafted by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), will require that nursing home residents receive 2.45 hours of care from a nurse aide per day, plus 0.55 hours of care from a registered nurse. The rule would also require that nursing homes have a registered nurse on duty at all times. According to the article, CMS estimates that three-quarters of American nursing homes will need to increase staffing to meet the requirements, and one-fifth of nursing homes will need to hire registered nurses.

Understaffing in nursing homes has a direct and negative impact on nursing home residents’ well-being to an extent that amounts to nursing home malpractice. The following are examples of how low staff levels in nursing homes can result in nursing home malpractice:

  • Scarce staff may interfere with the timely provision of adequate food and water, leading to nursing home malnutrition and dehydration
  • Fewer staff members are available to provide frequent bathing, which can lead to poor nursing home hygiene and the development/deterioration of pressure wounds
  • Inconsistent staffing affects staff members’ ability to frequently reposition immobile residents, which can result in bedsores
  • Residents stranded by unavailable staff may attempt to get out of bed or use the bathroom by themselves, risking nursing home falls
  • Lack of nurses within nursing homes can increase the occurrence of medication errors
  • Low nursing levels reduces the number of decision makers regarding medical intervention or sending a resident to the hospital

The above circumstances—in themselves instances of nursing home malpractice—illustrate how understaffing interferes with nursing homes’ ability to properly execute tasks that support elderly residents’ well-being. Ultimately these circumstances of nursing home malpractice can also result in a range of  negative outcomes, such as the following:

While nursing home operators claim understaffing is the result of an extreme employee shortage, particularly in the wake of the pandemic, advocates for better quality care in nursing homes say insufficient pay and poor working conditions, which create high staff turnover rates (an average of 50 percent per year), are the real culprits for poorly staffed homes.

“We call it a job quality crisis, not a hireability crisis,” said Sam Brooks, director of public policy at the nonprofit advocacy group National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care. “It’s clear that nursing homes don’t pay workers well, they don’t treat them well, and they don’t provide adequate training.”

Beyond this, said Brooks, is the financial opacity of nursing homes, which increasingly are operated by owners that utilize multiple companies that service their facilities and direct profits away from resident care, resulting in conditions that often advance nursing home malpractice.

The majority of the staffing rule will kick in within three years for urban facilities and five years for rural facilities.

Protecting Your Loved One against Nursing Home Malpractice and Wrongful Death

Attorney Brian P. Murphy has dedicated his law practice to protecting the health, security, and well-being of Philadelphia/PA and NJ nursing home residents. Your loved one living in a Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, or New Jersey nursing home has the right to expect a high level of quality care and not fear that situations of nursing home malpractice will occur as a result of low staffing levels within the home. As an experienced nursing home malpractice and wrongful death attorney, Brian P. Murphy holds accountable Philadelphia/PA or NJ nursing homes for acts of negligence or elder abuse. Should you find yourself needing to contact a nursing home malpractice and wrongful death attorney, call Brian Murphy today to discuss your legal options.