One-Third of State Nursing Homes Understaffed, Department of Health Services Report Finds
One-third of California's nursing homes fail to meet the state's minimum staffing requirements, according to a new report released yesterday by the state Department of Health Services, the Los Angeles Times reports. Conducted at the Legislature's request to determine whether state nursing home staffing requirements should be increased, the study concluded that the minimum levels should not be raised, in part because of the state's nursing shortage. Instead, the report recommended that the state "randomly investigate" staffing levels at homes each year. The report also suggested that the state study the "correlation" between quality of care and staffing levels and increase Medi-Cal reimbursements for facilities that improve staff salaries and benefits (Rhone, Los Angeles Times, 6/27). In addition, the study called for "future consideration" of staffing ratios to replace a current law that requires each patient to receive 3.2 hours of "direct staff attention" each day. Brenda Klutz, the department's deputy director, said, "There is absolutely no question that nursing homes need additional staffing." She added, however, that with the statewide shortage of certified nursing assistants, homes would fail to meet higher staffing standards.
The Contra Costa Times reports that the study's recommendations were "immediately attacked" as "weak, incomplete and ignor[ant] of serious care issues." Assembly Majority Leader Kevin Shelley (D-San Francisco), who sponsored a bill (AB 1075) that would raise nursing home staffing levels to one nurse for every five patients from the current 1 to 9 ratio, said the study's conclusions are "flat-out wrong" (Peele, Contra Costa Times, 6/27). Calling the report "cautious," Pat McGinnis, executive director of California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, said the "conclusions are not really conclusions. If [California] were running a budget surplus there probably wouldn't be this cautionary a report." The study recommendations allow the state to "avoid" spending more money on nursing homes, she said, adding, "I can imagine what will come out of this is more studies, more funding for grants and more meetings, but no money for staffing" (Los Angeles Times, 6/27). However, Keeley Queale, a spokesperson for the California Association of Health Facilities, a nursing home trade group, said the study "recognizes that a crisis exists" in the nursing homes "but that a minimum care level increase cannot fix it." She added that the report supports the industry's call for a "funding system that supports higher salary and wages and future staffing requirements that take into account flexibility" (Contra Costa Times, 6/27). Go to http://www.dhs.ca.gov/lnc/reports/NursingStaffReport.pdf to view the complete report.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.