According to a new study, set to be published in the American Journal of Infection Control in May 2011, infections in nursing home residents, which is the cause of approximately 400,000 deaths in U.S. nursing homes annually, may be largely attributed to understaffing. Understaffing in nursing homes occurs when nursing home owners and operators elect to save money in their operations by employing and scheduling only the bare minimum of employees necessary according to federal regulations. This method of cost-cutting saves nursing home owners and operators millions of dollars nationwide each year.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services require all nursing homes nationwide to meet certain requirements to be considered eligible for Medicare or Medicaid reimbursement. Facilities that do not meet federal standard care criteria are assessed deficiency citations, also known as F-Tags. Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health examined the criteria for The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services F-Tag 441, a deficiency citation governing infection control requirements, and gathered and analyzed data collected for Medicare/Medicaid certification from 2000 to 2007. The data analyzed involved approximately 16,000 nursing homes and approximately 100,000 “observations” annually, which is 96% of all nursing home facilities in the United States.
Through their study, researchers determined that infections and the deaths resulting from infections may largely be attributed to nursing home understaffing. According to study authors, “Our analysis may provide some clues as to the reason for the persistent infection control problems in nursing homes. Most significantly, the issue of staffing is very prominent in our findings; that is, nurse aides, LPNs and RNs, low staffing levels are associated with F-Tag 441 citations. With low staffing levels, these caregivers are likely hurried and may skimp on infection control measures, such as hand hygiene.”
If you have a loved one in a nursing home, do not be shy about confronting administrators about staffing issues. Remember, no one wil ever love your family member as much as you, so you need to be persistent in making sure that there is sufficient staffing to help meet the needs of the one you love.