The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the longstanding staffing crisis in the nursing home industry. The over 200,000 deaths of nursing home residents and workers during those bleak times exposed the system’s vulnerabilities. To this day, they continue to be a sobering reminder of understaffing’s fatal impact.
To fulfill their commitment to improving long-term care policies, the current administration recently announced that it will establish minimum federal staffing standards, a first of its kind. Roughly 15,000 nursing homes nationwide must comply with delivering quality care and stop slashing their staffing to prioritize their profits over their residents’ needs and protection.
However, critics argue that the new proposal sets unfounded thresholds lower than they seek and can only worsen existing problems. Advocates, on the other hand, are hopeful that the proposed staffing levels can lead to fewer oversights, injuries, hospitalizations and fatalities.
What constitutes the new proposed rule?
A comprehensive staffing report commissioned by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services revealed that no precise staffing ratio can guarantee the prevention of substandard care.
It tends to reinforce how each state has varying interpretations of what “sufficient staffing” means. For example, California generally requires staffing to have 3.5 direct care service hours, with certified nursing assistants performing 2.4 of the total hours.
But the federal government pledges standardized efforts to combat chronic understaffing. Thus, the proposed rule stipulates that every nursing home must:
- Have at least one registered nurse working on-site 24/7
- Provide each resident with a registered nurse to provide 33 minutes of daily care
- Provide each resident with a nurse aide to provide 2.45 hours of daily care
Accounting for other workers expected to care for a resident, nurse staffing is around 3.9 hours daily per resident in total.
The administration recognizes that these numbers still need further assessment of nursing homes’ circumstances. Facilities must gauge if their pool of workers meets the competencies for the tasks at hand. They might also have to adjust their resources to fund new staffing demands.
The new rule is still open for comments until November this year.
What’s next for nursing home residents and their families?
The new proposal’s centerpiece is the crackdown on unsafe nursing home practices, specifically understaffing. While care experts and law officials discuss its merits and drawbacks, residents and their families can find peace knowing their concerns are valid. If they are still worried about their or their loved ones’ safety in nursing homes, their counsel can work with them on possible courses of action. This way, they can ensure that their tax payments and the pain they endured are not in vain.