CMS Makes Additional Nursing Home Staffing Data Public:

The public availability of staff turnover data and weekend staffing rates may prompt staffing policy changes that help in thwarting nursing home abuse and preventing nursing home neglect.

In addition to data regarding nursing home staffing averages previously available on the Medicare Care Compare site, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services have begun posting staff turnover rates and weekend staffing levels on the site, says a McKnights article. The transparency regarding these two aspects of nursing home staffing issues seeks not only to better inform consumers who are choosing a nursing home, but also to encourage facilities to make significant improvements toward preventing nursing home abuse and neglect by boosting and securing staffing.

Staff Turnover

Issues with nursing home staffing predate the coronavirus pandemic, but the challenges of COVID have served to worsen the problem.

As the CMS makes additional nursing home staffing data public, workers are continuing to leave their jobs; according to the Bureau of Labor, since February 2020 about 420,000 nursing home workers have resigned. Nursing homes left to grapple with vacancies have increasingly sought to fill positions, at least temporarily, with agency staffing, according to an article in Skilled Nursing News.

But the relationships between residents and their long-term caregivers, deemed necessary to the patients’ wellbeing and quality of life, cannot be achieved with temporary staff or in circumstances of high staff turnover. CMS’s publication of the rate of turnover at a given facility aims to encourage that facility to curb the usage of agency staffing and to seek ways to secure longer-term staffing solutions and staff retention.

“Staffing challenges are harder than ever before,” said Melissa Brown, OT, chief operating officer of Gravity Healthcare Consulting. “If providers don’t make deep, meaningful changes, it will come to haunt them.”

Weekend Staffing

CMS said one aim in revealing data on facilities’ weekend staffing is to inspire homes to boost staffing levels on weekends. Maintaining adequate levels of staffing within nursing homes throughout the week and weekend promotes consistency in care and help in preventing nursing home neglect. CMS posts data on Care Compare that shows both weekend RN and total nurse staffing levels for all nursing homes. According to McKnights, turnover calculations of the average number of RN and total nurse hours worked per resident per day are based on weekends. For people using Care Compare to help in choosing a nursing home, this data should provide insight into how homes with similar staffing star ratings compare regarding weekend staffing.

Preventing Nursing Home Neglect and Abuse

Staffing issues in nursing homes can contribute to instances of nursing home abuse and nursing home neglect. The following are considered indicators of circumstances within nursing homes that could interfere with that home’s ability to support an elderly resident’s physical, mental, and psycho/social well-being, all of which are necessary in preventing nursing home neglect:

  • Low nursing staff levels and high staff member turnover rates
  • Inattentive, indifferent, or incompetent care providers
  • Frustrated or stressed care providers
  • Unsanitary living conditions

Other telltale circumstances that not only are indicative of neglect as a result of staffing issues, but also are frequent bedsore causes, include the following:

  • Residents with poor hygiene—Insufficient staffing can be evidenced by unkempt residents. Unclean hair and unwashed skin as well as dirty clothes and bedclothes can mean the nursing home staff is cutting corners. In circumstances where neglected residents have developed pressure ulcers, the contact between dirty conditions and bedsores causes these ulcers to deteriorate into serious wounds.
  • Residents being left alone for prolonged periods—The primary factor in bedsore causes is unrelieved pressure against the skin. Residents at risk for bedsores must be frequently repositioned in their beds and chairs to prevent the development of pressure ulcers. In homes where understaffing is an issue, workers may neglect to turn patients in a timely manner, which is how a bedsore causes to form.

According to McKnights, beginning in July the information released on the Medicare Care Compare site will also be included in the public Five-Star rating system utilized by consumers who are choosing a nursing home.

Fighting for Your Loved One

Ensuring adequate, quality staffing is among the measures Pennsylvania and New Jersey nursing homes should take to preserve its residents against nursing home neglect or abuse. Philadelphia/PA and NJ nursing homes are required by law to meet specific health and safety requirements and to provide such care as to secure the physical, mental, and psycho/social well-being of their residents. Should you have concerns about a Pennsylvania or New Jersey nursing home, or if you suspect neglect, abuse, or fraud has occurred at the Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, or New Jersey nursing home where your loved one lives, please contact nursing home abuse attorney Brian P. Murphy to discover your legal rights and options.