The Elder Justice Coalition is reacting to a July 7th New York Times article that outlined just how extensively nursing homes have hidden low staffing numbers. The advocacy group is calling for an immediate congressional review of staffing practices within nursing homes.
Actual Payroll Data Reveals Staffing Crisis
The article, investigated and published in collaboration with Kaiser Health News, was based off a review of payroll hours submitted to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The actual hours made news not only because they show a serious crisis in terms of resident to staff ratios, but also because up until recently, nursing homes had supplied their own staffing data to CMS. With the new payroll-based submission process, nursing homes have no ability to fudge numbers.
Nursing home industry representatives have tried to point out that it’s not so much staffing that counts, but the quality of care that is given to residents. While that seems logical, the issue is that lower staff numbers lead to an increased risk of abuse and neglect. Neglect is particularly likely due to the ongoing needs of nursing home residents. The demand placed on staff for seemingly routine, everyday tasks is huge. Resident don’t require less assistance on weekends or at night, two occasions that were found to be frequently understaffed in the data reviewed by the NY Times & Kaiser Health News.
Elder advocates are also concerned that other quality measures evaluated by CMS are depending on unreliable information. CMS uses several quality indicators to rate nursing home quality from 1 to 5 stars and makes the data publicly available through Nursing Home Compare.
Elder Group Calling on Congress to Force CMS to Respond
The Elder Justice Coalition is calling on Congress to question CMS on how they will address the news that staffing shortages have been an ongoing issue that they failed to correct. The same group also wants CMS to rate nursing homes strictly on their own data, instead of rating one facility’s information in comparison to another.
We’ve frequently addressed the nursing home practice of “staffing up” before inspections. CMS seems to have been setting themselves up to be duped, only requiring staffing hours two weeks before an inspection. To anyone whom has ever worked in a healthcare setting, inspections are hardly a surprise visit.
On June 29th, our blog covered changes to CMS’ ratings system, including their decision to publicly share data on long-term resident hospitalizations, as well as requiring nursing homes to submit their payroll hours electronically to CMS. CMS has said that the public should be able to start accessing this information as soon as this month.