An audit of Pennsylvania nursing homes warns that staffing levels are insufficient and on track to get worse.  Residents will get harmed and injured from the short-staffing.  One of the main reasons for the staff shortage is the greed of nursing home owner/operators paired with relatively low pay and the intense physical and emotional demands of these jobs.

“Nursing home direct care workers are currently, and have been historically, underpaid. And that is part, I think, of the reason why people choose to work in other environments and other places,” said Ellen Flaherty, past president of the American Geriatrics Society, and director of Dartmouth Centers for Health and Aging in Hanover, New Hampshire.

“We are facing an eldercare crisis, and we continue to ignore it at our own peril,” said Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale.

“Without family-sustaining wages and benefits, the eldercare workforce will never grow to the size we need to care for aging Pennsylvanians,” said DePasquale. “The number of health care workers is clearly not keeping pace with current demand, and is currently not keeping pace with future demand, which is going to explode rapidly.”

It’s a deliberate decision by many of the owners to not hire adequate staffing,” said Charlene Harrington, a professor emeritus of the University of California San Francisco’s School of Nursing, where she specializes in nursing homes, staffing and scheduling.

Harrington said for-profit nursing homes are able to make “excessive profits” by employing minimal personnel.

The workers can’t get the work done because staffers don’t have enough staff to do it. Patients are neglected and abused,” she said. “Ulcers … falls … weight loss … overuse of anti-psychotic drugs … all the problems found in nursing homes are related to inadequate staffing.”

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recommends that, at minimum, nursing home residents receive 4.1 hours of direct care.

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