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Study Reveals Nursing Homes Were Short Staffed Even Before the Pandemic

Study Reveals Nursing Homes Were Short Staffed Even Before the Pandemic

The pandemic wreaked havoc across the globe, but few populations suffered as much as nursing home residents – and staff members. In the past year, over 174,000 nursing home residents and employees succumbed to COVID-19. While only 1 percent of Americans live in nursing homes, they account for one-third of all deaths from COVID-19.

100 Percent Turnover

A new study published in the March 2021 edition of Health Affairs reveals severe nursing home staff shortages before the pandemic, a situation exacerbated even more by the virus. According to the study, the average annual staff turnover at nursing homes is an astonishing 100 percent. That means the entire staff at the average nursing home changes within a calendar year.

Keep in mind that does not mean every employee literally leaves. If a job is filled every month because the new workers keep quitting, that is a turnover of 12 employees. There are facilities in which the turnover rate reaches as high as 300 percent, or the equivalent of the entire staff changing every four months.

Turnover and Care

When such enormous turnover is the norm rather than the exception, care suffers. Previous research has found evidence that high turnover increases patient mortality rates. It is not hard to understand that when there are not enough staff on hand, and many are new or tired from working overtime, residents will not receive the attention they need.

Why the high turnover rate? Nursing home work is hard, dirty, and low-paying. Few workers receive sick days, and many must go to work even if ill. Chillingly, although federal law requires employers to pay workers for coronavirus-related sick leave, many staff members are reluctant to take time off.

The staff is heavily female, and many are immigrants. Many staffers work part-time at several facilities just to make ends meet. Nursing home staffers employed at multiple jobs were a major source of COVID-19 transmission to residents.

Private Equity and Nursing Home Care

The result of the study on staff shortages should not surprise anyone with a loved one residing in a nursing home. Before the pandemic, family and friends of residents took up some of the slack. Once in-person visits were banned, a bad situation became more dire.

Another study from the University of Pennsylvania reveals that the increasing number of private equity firms involved in the nursing home industry is making things worse.

The study sought to determine whether the growing involvement of private equity firms was a positive or negative trend. What researchers found – and they checked the data again and again to ensure its accuracy – was that deaths rose by 10 percent at facilities run by private equity firms.

Further investigation showed that private equity-run nursing homes spent more money on items unrelated to patient care, such as management fees and lease payments. Meanwhile, fewer nurses were employed, and more anti-psychotic drugs administered. The latter may keep patients passive when there are not as many nursing aides available.

A Grim Future

Unless employees receive higher wages and benefits, it is likely already critical nursing home staff turnover will increase. Nursing home residents are among the most vulnerable people in society, but their caregivers do not lag far behind.

Justice for Victims of Nursing Home Negligence

If you have a relative in a nursing home, you understand how important it is to advocate for their welfare. Frequent visits to check on their wellbeing is essential. But COVID-19 took that protection away. With no visitors to keep them honest, too many nursing homes got comfortable neglecting patient care. At a crucial moment when facilities should have raised their standards, many facilities failed to answer the call. As a result, patients were harmed, and many died unnecessarily.

If your loved one was injured and you suspect neglect was a factor, our attorneys are ready to investigate. If we determine that careless, substandard care injured your loved one, we are prepared to fight for justice, including injunctive relief and cash compensation.

Call us: 833.201.1555 or Connect Online.

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Related topics: nursing home neglect (59) | poor staffing (24)


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