Nursing home understaffing adds to deaths

PITTSBURGH, May 4 (UPI) -- Infections, the cause of nearly 400,000 U.S. nursing home deaths per year, may be largely the result of understaffing, researchers say.

A team of researchers at the University of Pittsburgh's Graduate School of Public Health analyzed data collected for Medicare/Medicaid certification from 2000 to 2007, involving about 16,000 nursing homes per year and roughly 100,000 observations -- representing 96 percent of all U.S. nursing home facilities.


The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services requires U.S. nursing homes be certified before receiving reimbursement for Medicare and/or Medicaid residents -- and as part of this process, facilities that do not meet certain standards are issued deficiency citations.

The researchers examined the deficiency citation for infection control requirements known as the F-Tag 441.

The study, scheduled to be published in the May issue of the American Journal of Infection Control, found a strong correlation between low staffing levels and the receipt of an infection control deficiency citation.

Fifteen percent of U.S. nursing homes receive deficiency citations for infection control per year, the study says.

"Our analysis may provide some clues as to the reason for the persistent infection control problems in nursing homes," the study authors say. "Most significantly, the issue of staffing is very prominent in our findings; that is, nurse aides, LPNs and RNs, low staffing levels are associated with F-Tag 441 citations. With low-staffing levels, these caregivers are likely hurried and may skimp on infection control measures, such as hand hygiene."


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