NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Staffs at Nursing Homes Called Inadequate

February 18, 2002

Staff levels at nine out of 10 U.S. nursing homes are not adequate to take proper care of patients, according to a study by the Department of Health and Human Services. But rather than impose minimum staffing levels, the Bush administration wants to publish data on the number of workers at each home and let the market take care of the problem.

  • The report estimates that it would take $7.6 billion a year -- an 8 percent increase over current spending -- to reach adequate staffing levels.
  • In most nursing homes, patients need an average of 4.1 hours of care per day -- 2.8 hours from nurse's aids and 1.3 hours from registered nurses or licensed practical nurses.
  • To reach recommended staffing levels, homes would have to hire 77,000 to 137,000 registered nurses, 22,000 to 27,000 licensed practical nurses, and 181,000 to 310,000 nurse's aids.
  • This would increase overall demand for registered nurses by 5 percent to 9 percent, while the demand for nurse's aides would rise 13 percent to 21 percent.

Nursing home executives say they would have difficulty finding those additional workers.

Patients in understaffed homes are more likely to suffer bedsores, malnutrition, weight loss, dehydration, pneumonia and serious blood-borne infections than those at fully-staffed homes, HHS says.

In addition to creating public demand for increased staffing, the administration wants nursing homes to adopt better management techniques so nurses' aides can achieve "higher productivity."

Source: Robert Pear, "Nine in 10 Nursing Homes Lack Adequate Staff, Study Finds," New York Times, February 18, 2002.


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