New York Times Article Confirms Consumer Voice Concerns about Nursing Home Staffing Levels and Data

The New York Times article, 'It’s Almost Like a Ghost Town.’ Most Nursing Homes Overstated Staffing for Years, substantiates Consumer Voice’s long-standing concern about the inaccuracy of previous staffing information based on self-reporting and what we have heard from residents, families, ombudsmen and other advocates for years – staffing is inadequate, particularly on the weekends.

The Consumer Voice advocated for a payroll-based staffing data collection system to increase the accuracy and reliability of staffing information and is pleased that it is now operational.  However, the fluctuations in staffing levels discussed in the article prevent consumers from getting a true picture of a nursing home’s available staff. While progress has been made in the government’s website, Nursing Home Compare, and five-star rating system, further refinements of the data must be made.

The article underscores the relationship between staffing levels and quality.  It demonstrates yet again the critical importance of adequate numbers of staff and speaks to the need for a staffing standard to ensure that residents in all facilities receive at least a minimum level of nursing care. Research and experience show the harm residents can suffer when there are not enough nursing staff to care for them.   

The article also demonstrates why Consumer Voice and other advocates are so concerned about CMS’s efforts to rollback nursing home regulations in order to give facilities more flexibility and to reduce “provider burden.”  The current regulations, which require only that staffing be “sufficient” to meet the needs of residents, already give nursing homes flexibility in staffing. The result?  The national average is 3.4 hours of combined direct care staff time (registered nurses, licensed nurses and certified nursing assistants) per resident per day, and 0.4 hours of registered nurse staff time per resident per day*.  A landmark federal study indicated that 4.1 hours of direct care staff is the minimum amount of nursing care residents need to prevent common quality of care problems and loss of the ability to do things independently, like eating.  According to the study at least 0.75 hours of registered nurse time is needed.
 
Consumers and the public must send a strong message to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), Congress, and state legislatures that stronger, not weaker standards are needed, and rolling back nursing home regulations to reduce the burden on nursing home providers is not acceptable.  The goal of government must be to protect consumers, not to make life easier for the regulated.

To achieve that goal, Consumer Voice calls on CMS to:

  • Address the issue of fluctuating staffing levels in its rating system so consumers are not misled
  • Use its staffing data to identify facilities that are not meeting minimum requirements for registered nurse staffing and enforce those regulations
  • Strengthen – not weaken – nursing home regulations, particularly those relating to staffing

*SNF Payroll-based journal daily nurse staffing 2017Q4

Read the original article at National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care

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