UNDERSTAFFING IN NURSING HOMES

James Steen, a registered nurse, recently sued the owners and the operators of the Highland Point Health & Rehab Center Nursing Home located at 402 Gulf View Lane in Highland Heights, Ohio 44143.

In his complaint, Mr. Steen alleged that he was an employee of Highland Point Health &Rehab Center and that he was supposed to have a staff of five (5) state-tested nursing assistants assisting him. In his complaint he claims that he was only permitted to have one (1) state-tested nursing assistant helping him. In his complaint he claims that he witnessed patients being mistreated and abused. As a result of this abuse, he claims that the residents suffered broken bones, they soiled themselves and were not cleaned up, they complained of being in pain and they complained of needing to be turned. Steen alleged in his complaint that the patients were being abused and mistreated as a result of understaffing. He alleged that as a result of the inadequate staffing, the patients were not being cared for.

Steen wrote a 4-page letter to the management at the Highland Point Health & Rehab Center Nursing Home regarding the lack of staffing and the danger that it posed to the patients. As a result, Steen claims in his complaint that he was fired.

Currently, the Highland Point Health & Rehab Center has an overall rating according to Medicare of four (4) out of five (5) stars. It has a staffing rating of two (2) out of five (5) stars. Medicare assigns the star rating based on the nursing home's staffing hours for registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, licensed vocational nurses, and also nurse's aides. More stars means a better level of staffing per nursing home resident. The maximum rating is five (5) stars for staffing. Highland Point Health & Rehab Center currently has a two (2) star rating.

Staffing is an essential component in providing quality care to nursing home residents in a nursing home. If you are selecting a nursing home for a loved one, we strongly recommend that you visit that nursing home in person and walk the floor. See how many people you see. There should be nurses and aides visible, assisting the residents.

If you have a loved one in a nursing home, we strongly recommend that you visit that person at all different times of the day. Go late in the evening, go early in the morning, go in the middle of the day, go in the middle of the night if you are able. This way you can see who's available to care for your loved one. There should be a sufficient number of staff to care for your loved one at all times. The laws in the State of Ohio and the federal laws require nursing homes to have an adequate number of appropriately trained staff to provide for the needs of their residents. Nursing Homes are also obligated to provide their residents with adequate supervision to prevent accidents. This means that they required to have an adequate number of staff to respond to their residents' call- lights, to turn and reposition them on a regular basis if needed, to take them to the bathroom when needed, etc.

When you visit your loved one, if you or your loved one pushes the call button, does a staff person respond promptly? If not, this may be a sign of understaffing. When you visit your loved one, are there staff at the facility? Do you see nurses working? Do you see aides working? If you visit your loved one for an extended period of time, are people in and out of the room? If your loved one is at risk for skin breakdown, they are supposed to be turned and repositioned every 2 hours. If they are not, this can lead to skin breakdown or make their skin breakdown worse. Decubitus ulcers or pressure sores or bedsores can be fatal, if not treated promptly. The sooner that you get treatment for your loved one for a pressure sore, the easier it is to heal. Therefore, at the first sign of any kind of skin breakdown, your loved one should get the care they need to heal that skin breakdown.

The nursing home is required by law to immediately notify your loved one's physician any time there is a significant change in their condition. Further, if your loved one has dementia and/or is not able to make their own decisions, then the nursing home is required to immediately contact you any time there is a significant change in their condition. If you are not immediately notified any time your loved one has a significant change in their condition, including any injuries, or any change in their medical condition, then you should consider moving your loved one to a different nursing home. Nursing homes who provide their residents with appropriate care immediately contact their resident's physician any time there is a significant change in their condition and immediately contact their resident's family. Nursing homes that provide their residents with appropriate care include the family in the care planning, and in the care of the resident. They keep their families informed. And if there is a problem, they reach out to the resident's family to assist in addressing the problem.

You can go to www.medicare.gov/nursinghomecompare/search.html and look for a nursing home for your loved one or check on the nursing home where your loved one currently is a resident. At the medicare.gov web site, you can search for nursing homes in your area. You can also check on any nursing home in the country.

If you have any questions or concerns about the care that your loved one is receiving at a nursing home, or selecting a proper nursing home for your loved one, please feel free to call us at The Dickson Firm at 1-800-OHIO-LAW.

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