Facilities' RN staffing drops by 25%, warns citizens group

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The average number of registered nurse-hours at nursing homes dropped by 25% from 1998 to 2004, according to a study touted by the National Citizens' Coalition for Nursing Home Reform. The study's lead researcher, Dr. Charlene Harrington, of the University of California-San Francisco, said the implementation of the Medicare prospective payment system led to the drop.


Harrington's study hit on other key areas. According to NCCNHR, occupancy rates dropped to 83%; Medicare has risen to pay for 12% of all resident care; and the percent of residents with dementia (45%) and psychiatric diagnoses (19%) have increased.

States continued to widely vary in their average number of deficiencies cited (4.8% in Wisconsin to 15.6% in California). The overall average number of deficiencies rose, although the percentage of them that were issued for causing harm or jeopardy dropped. This is a cause for concern, according to Harrington.

"Either quality is improving or states are less likely to give serious deficiencies," the researcher said. "Because there is little evidence of improved quality, it may be more likely that state survey agencies have changed the process of issuing serious deficiencies."

The study was funded by the Service Employees International Union and can be found online at www.nursinghomeaction.org under "Where Can I Go For Help?"

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