The Jackson Sun had a lengthy and informative article about the problems especially with understaffing at Western Tennessee nursing home facilities. The most common problems in West Tennessee relate to staffing levels, where state requirements lag behind the average for the nation. An attorney whose firm represents nursing home patients says staffing is where nursing homes cut corners to make more money. Another advocate said nursing home administrators often fall short in holding their employees accountable.
The Jackson Sun examined three years of detailed ratings for 41 nursing homes in West Tennessee and more than 3,400 rating and state inspection documents. The most recent ratings reviewed were from Aug. 12. Among the findings:
Six of the homes are considered "much below average" with the lowest rating of one star.
Of the 38 nursing homes rated in the category of staffing levels, more than one-third have the lowest possible score and more than half are rated below average or much below average. Over the last three years, five nursing homes have had new admissions temporarily suspended by the state and been fined. During inspections, problems that placed residents in "immediate jeopardy" were found. Only five nursing homes are judged "well above average" overall with five-star ratings.
A lack of quality staffing is the most common problem among West Tennessee nursing homes.
More than 50 percent of the homes received a sub-par one-star or two-star rating for staffing levels, and almost 37 percent had the lowest possible score. Statistics are worse statewide. More than 40 percent of Tennessee’s nursing homes have a one-star rating for staffing levels. Nursing homes report their staffing levels to the state, and the government converts that data into the number of staff hours per resident per day. That determines the nursing home’s rating for staffing levels.
Registered nurses, licensed practical nurses and certified nursing assistants, or CNAs, provide care for residents. The certified assistants usually spend the most time with residents, providing care for daily living such as brushing hair and teeth, feeding, bathing and turning disabled residents in their beds to prevent sores. They also clean residents who are incontinent or become sick in their beds. But certified assistants are not allowed to provide medical care, such as administering medicine.
Tennessee requires nursing homes to provide a minimum of two hours of personal care per resident per day. But many believe that figure is too low. The national average is about three hours of care per resident per day.
Litigation rules are strict concerning nursing homes in Tennessee. The plaintiff has only one year to file suit over an incident, and a unanimous jury verdict is required in cases that go to trial. Before a lawyer can file a suit, he must notify the nursing home of a potential case, request records from the facility and give the records to experts, who must agree that the case has merit. That is a long process that often involves significant paperwork. If the procedure is not started quickly enough, the one-year statute of limitations could expire.
Poor care in nursing homes often is tied directly to payroll. For profit corporations place profit over care given to residents. Staffing levels should be increased and any raise in Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement should go to resident care and not the pockets of the CEOs and CFOs.