Understaffing: Ohio’s Nursing Home Crisis

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Understaffing is a serious crisis facing Ohio nursing home residents, nurses, and nurses aids.

According to an article on Cleveland.com by reporters John Caniglia and Jo Ellen Corrigan, Ohio is in a crisis that is effecting nursing homes, hospitals, and rehab facilities. The article reports the following statistics:

  • In 2015, 70 percent of Ohio nursing homes were staffed below what researchers say is necessary to provide safe, compassionate care.
  • The most recent federal nursing home data also found that across the country, 62 percent of nursing homes were below that level.
  • Numerous studies and interviews with researchers indicate that nursing staffs should provide an average of 4.1 hours of care for a resident each day.Ohio’s nursing homes averaged 3.9 hours, the newspaper found. Dozens of facilities could not provide 3 hours of care per resident day.
  • Ohio calls for its 960 nursing homes to provide a minimum of 2.5 hours of care per resident a day, which researchers said is exceedingly low.
  • Nonprofit nursing homes in Ohio tended to have significantly better staffing. They offered an average of 4.47 hours of care per resident day, compared to the average of 3.77 hours that for-profit facilities offered.
  • The nursing homes in the state with the highest number of hours per resident day had the highest ratios of registered nurses. Researchers say registered nurses should provide 45 minutes of care per day to each resident. The nursing homes with the most hours of care per resident offer three times that.
  • In Ohio, 84 percent of the nursing homes in 2015 delivered care at a rate below 4.5 hours per resident day.
  • In Northeast Ohio, two nursing homes were among the lowest ranking in terms of care in the state in 2015: Sapphire Health and Rehabilitation in Akron with 2.67 hours of care per resident day and Falls Village Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation in Cuyahoga Falls with 2.69 hours.
  • Two facilities among the highest ranking of staffing were the Saber Skilled Nursing Unit in Barberton, with 6.65 hours per resident day, and Kendal at Oberlin, at 6.59 hours.

In my experience, critical understaffing is in the nursing staff–nurses (RNs and / or LPNs) and aides (STNAs)–because they are the ones providing direct medical care, observation, and evaluation.  Without enough nursing staff, people can be seriously injured or even die. Without enough physical therapists, by contrast, residents might miss a session or two.  Not usually life-threatening.

Nursing homes know what their resident’s individual care needs are, because they evaluate every single resident’s needs on admission, and they are supposed to evaluate their needs at least every 90 days thereafter under federal regulations.

The Crisis: Beyond Numbers

According to the article, Genevieve Gipson has spent almost 60 years teaching nurses aides and she describes the Ohio understaffing crisis:

“We’re in a crisis,” said Gipson, a registered nurse and the director of the National Network of Career Nursing Assistants, a professional organization in Norton. “We’re seeing aides work three consecutive, 12-hour shifts.”

“Something needs to be done on the state level,” Gipson said. “I would hope to see in my lifetime that we address this issue. People – parents and grandparents – are living out their lives in conditions where one aide has more than 20 residents to care for. It’s not right.”

The article reports that Gipson and other nursing home staff are facing challenges because there are not enough of nurses and nurses aids being hired to properly care for the residents under their watch. While many nurses and nurses aids may have their hearts in the right place, it does not mean that they and their employers are not responsible for the safety and care of the residents.

According to the article, groups such as the National Network of Career Nursing Assistants are attempting to shed some light on the issue as well. They are trying to bring light to these issues that nurses aids see on a daily basis. The article also spoke with an administrator at one of the top nursing homes in Ohio:

“We don’t want to be the highest-staffed; we want to be the most appropriately staffed for our residents’ needs,” said Barbara Thomas, the chief executive officer of Kendal at Oberlin. Two facilities among the highest ranking of staffing were the Saber Skilled Nursing Unit in Barberton, with 6.65 hours per resident day, and Kendal at Oberlin, at 6.59 hours.

Understaffing, in my opinion and experience, is the root of several serious care failures in nursing homes. While on the one hand, it is more than a numbers game in that compassionate care is important, but it is also extremely important that elderly residents are properly cared for.

If you would feel like your loved one has been the victim of an injury or death in Ohio you can file a complaint here. Filing a complaint is not always enough. In many cases, you will need to pursue a civil lawsuit.  If you would like me to begin an investigation into your loved one’s situation, you can fill out a confidential form here or comment below.


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