The Senate Special Committee on Aging has released a report exposing an understaffing problem among the survey agencies across the nation that are responsible for overseeing nursing home inspections. The staffing crises at these agencies, according to the report, has led to an increase in the number of regulation violations and ultimately is making long-term care facilities unreasonably dangerous for their residents.
Today, more than 1.1 million individuals live in about 15,000 nursing homes nationwide. Yet as many as one in nine of these facilities have not had an annual inspection in the past two years – in large part due to staffing shortages. In its report, committee members make several recommendations to Congress for addressing this shortage – including decreasing burnout among agency staff, increasing staff salary, and lowering the overall turnover rate among inspection staff.
State survey agencies contract with a state Medicaid agency to inspect long-term care facilities and ensure they are meeting federal standards for medical care, are fully prepared for emergencies, are keeping residents safe, and more. These agencies create inspection reports that detail a facility’s performance and document violations of state statutes and regulations. Such reports are intended to be conducted on an annual basis.
State survey agencies must have adequate staff to carry out these tasks, however. Enforcing federal and state regulations helps protect nursing home residents from unreasonable risk of harm. If these agencies do not have the workforce they need to operate efficiently, the older adults that call these care facilities home may continue to endure a substandard quality of care as a result.
According to the report:
There are several causes for the high staff turnover in the industry, among them low salaries and burnout.
The committee recommended the following to address such issues while increasing the efficiency of state survey agencies:
Fixing dangerous and unregulated long-term care facilities is not an issue that can be ignored, particularly given that the population of older adults will exponentially increase over the next several decades. By 2040, older Americans are projected to number 80.8 million – and 94.7 million by 2060.
“The people working at survey agencies are dedicated professionals who endure long hours conducting emotionally taxing work, often for relatively low pay, each of whom wants to see patient care and safety improved,” the report states. “Ensuring that every nursing home patient receives high-quality care demands that the nation provide these public servants with the resources necessary to properly oversee facilities.”