Spotlight: Make nursing homes safer with adequate staffing

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Corporate nursing home facilities are often chronically understaffed. This increases the risk of tragic consequences; residents can suffer because there are not enough staff members to provide necessary care. These facilities must be held accountable for failing to meet residents’ needs.

To combat this problem, Illinois state Sen. Jacqueline Collins (D-Chicago) is sponsoring SB1510, the Nursing Home Residents’ Quality Care Initiative, which will financially penalize facilities that breach the minimum number of staffing requirements, curb the use of psychotropic drugs and increase public transparency of nursing home violations. This legislation must be passed to keep our most at-risk seniors safe.

The bill is also backed by AARP, which noted in a study that Illinois nursing homes have the worst rate in the nation for patient-to-staff care hours a day.

“This initiative sets forth some much-needed measures to ensure that no family has to see their loved one suffer unnecessarily in a place where they are supposed to be cared for,” Collins said.

As an attorney. who for 40 years has represented injured or neglected nursing home residents, I’ve seen many tragedies caused by understaffed nursing homes; clients in those facilities experienced deadly falls, bed and pressure sores, and serious medication errors — all of them preventable had there been adequate staffing. Over the past three years, 20 Chicago nursing home facilities were fined more than $520,000 for numerous violations.

But inadequate staffing levels are a common problem statewide. According to U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services data, facilities in Illinois have been fined more than $6 million since 2016 for numerous violations that put residents at risk of negligence and abuse.

Within the last three years, CMS fined seven Peoria nursing home facilities a total of $191,000 for violations related to care.

During the same period in Morton, three nursing homes were fined a total $91,000 for violations.

Many studies show nursing home facilities that provide adequate staffing levels deliver better care and better results to residents. Yet a lack of federal requirements for nursing home staffing levels means that facility owners — increasingly for-profit companies — are free to set their own standards. At some corporate-owned facilities, this translates to low staffing numbers, inexperienced workers with inadequate training, a failure to follow industry guidelines and Illinois laws and ignoring reports of abuse and neglect.

Nursing home residents are our parents, siblings and friends. They are some of the most vulnerable members of our society. We can start protecting them here in Illinois by passing SB1510. It’s time for facilities and policymakers to follow the actions experts recommend and ensure that nursing home residents receive the safest, best possible care.

Steven M. Levin is a founding partner at Levin & Perconti, Attorneys at Law.

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via Journal Star

April 12, 2019 at 09:12PM

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