Are Pennsylvania Nursing Homes Slacking on Staffing Requirements?
From January 1, 2014 until October 31, 2015, an extensive audit was conducted in the state of Pennsylvania. The results of this audit have prompted questions regarding whether the Department of Health is effectively enforcing staffing regulations in nursing homes.
While the department typically does not accept anonymous complaints, they rescinded this policy during the audit period, leading to a significant number of incoming complaints concerning the quality of elderly care. In fact, throughout this audit period, the complaints received increased by 63%. Those running the audit have begun to question whether the department’s policy of rejecting anonymous complaints actually compromised the DOH’s ability to be made aware of and investigate potential issues of elderly neglect or potential abuse.
Findings of the Nursing Home Staffing Audit
The Pennsylvania Department of Health lacks policies for reviewing staffing levels for approximately 700 of the nursing home facilities that it regulates. In addition, for those staffing reviews that were conducted, there was not enough documentation to support the analysis, leading auditors to wonder if these facilities had actually complied with the mandated staffing regulations.
In Pennsylvania, nursing homes are required to provide 2.7 hours of direct nursing care per resident, per day, at a minimum. Despite the fact that many believe this requirement is already too low, the department cited facilities 13 times out of over 7,200 inspections for failing to meet this minimum staffing requirement.
Moreover, for the nursing homes that were found to have poor quality of care for their senior residents, the DOH never required those facilities to increase their staffing levels.
All in all, the Auditor General’s Office found that the State Department of Health is not doing its job to properly enforce nursing home staffing regulations. Instead of addressing issues as they “pop up,” the auditors believe the department should instead look at nursing home compliance issues more systematically and preemptively.
Why Should We Be Concerned About Staffing Regulations
The failure of nursing home facilities to enforce the minimum staffing requirements means that elderly patients are not receiving the care they deserve. Fewer nurses’ aides working means that those workers must take care of more patients, giving each patient less individual time and care.
As we discussed in a previous blog post about staffing regulations in New Jersey nursing homes, understaffed facilities can often lead to nursing home negligence. The issue of compliance when it comes to staffing minimums is a serious one. Nursing homes, and the departments that monitor them, need to be held accountable for providing the care that our loved ones deserve.
If you have any questions about nursing home negligence, please contact us today.