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Will Broward Nursing Home Neglect Spike With Medicaid Cuts?

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has required state agencies to hammer out ways to achieve significant cost savings over the next year.

Being floated around is roughly $430 million to Medicaid rate cuts. A proposal by the Agency for Health Care Administration would place 60 percent of that amount – some $274 million – on the shoulders of Florida nursing homes.

Our Broward nursing home neglect lawyers are concerned that such measures could result in an uptick in abuse, neglect and negligence cases at these facilities – many of which already are plagued by understaffing and lack of resources.

One nursing home director in north Florida was quoted by the Jacksonville paper saying two-thirds of his operational costs are salaries. If such significant cuts were made, something will have to give, and it will likely be salaries — hours or staff.

Here’s why that is so bothersome:

A study by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health and published in the American Journal of Infection Control, found that infections, which cause approximately 40,000 nursing home deaths in the U.S. each year, are largely the result of understaffing.

The study looked at data from some 16,000 nursing homes from 2000 to 2007 in a sample that was representative of 96 percent of all nursing homes.

Of those that had markedly low staffing levels, infection control deficiency citations were commonplace.

Why is this?

When a facility is understaffed, you have fewer people to do the same amount of work. So what happens is that quality control measures get missed. Caregivers skip things like thoroughly washing their hands or properly cleaning a resident after the restroom or turning a bedridden patient as often as necessary.

Numerous lawsuits in other states directly attributed the neglect or negligence experienced by patients to the lack of adequate staffing at the facility.

In late 2010, a jury in California awarded a $671 million verdict against a nursing home chain that allegedly provided too few staffers to meet patients’ needs – in direct violation of state staffing standards. The reason the award was so high was because the jury imposed the maximum for that violation – $500 per day per patient. The facility ultimately agreed with plaintiff attorneys to settle for $50 million so it could avoid bankruptcy. Similar lawsuits have been cropping up throughout the country ever since.

Florida first implemented minimum nursing home staff levels back in 2001, but they’ve since been reduced. Initially, nursing home residents were entitled to receive 3.9 hours of direct care every single day. Following approximately $187 million in Medicaid cuts last year, the state allowed facilities to reduce that figure to 3.6 hours. Of those, 2.5 hours have to be with a certified nurse.

It’s possible that these additional cuts, if implemented, could prompt state leaders to allow nursing home staffing levels to become even more lax, which could spell bad news for some of the state’s most vulnerable, elderly residents.

Freeman, Mallard, Sharp & Gonzalez — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:
Proposed Medicaid cuts sends shudder through nursing home industry, Nov. 2, 2012, By Matt Dixon, The Florida Times-Union

More Blog Entries:
Nursing Home Workers Protest Wages, Understaffing, Overtime, Oct. 26, 2012, South Bay Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Blog

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