Report: Understaffed Nursing Homes Endanger Patients

ByABC News
July 23, 2000, 4:51 AM

N E W   Y O R K, July 23 -- Many nursing homes are so understaffed they maybe endangering the welfare of their patients, according to a newreport by federal health officials.

The report, which will be presented to Congress later thismonth, recommends stricter guidelines that would require thousandsof nursing homes to hire more nurses and nurses aides, The NewYork Times reported today.

After eight years of research, health officials concluded thatunderstaffing has contributed to increased incidences of severebedsores, malnutrition, and abnormal weight loss among nursing homepatients.

Problems Could Be Prevented?

A high number of those patients end up developinglife-threatening infections, dehydration and other problems thatcould have been prevented had the homes been staffed adequately,the study said.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends newfederal standards to guarantee that patients receive a minimum oftwo hours of care each day from nurses aides, among other things.The study says that 54 percent of nursing homes currently fallbelow the proposed minimum standard.

The report also recommends that patients receive at least 12minutes a day of care from registered nurses. Currently, 31 percentof nursing homes do not meet that standard.

Nursing homes said it was impossible for the government topropose minimum staffing guidelines when it was providinginadequate subsidies under Medicare and Medicaid, the Timesreported.

Many nursing home officials said it was also difficult toattract and retain good workers due to the boom-time economy ofrecent years.