Analysis: California facilities improved but still lacking in staffing, quality

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Nearly one-third of California nursing homes didn't meet the state's minimum staffing standard of 3.2 nursing hours per resident day in 2003, according to a study conducted by University of California-San Francisco researchers. But while they note that the number (31%) is high, it is still lower than the 44% who didn't meet minimum standards in 2000.

Most of the increase in nurse-staffing hours came from rises in nurse-aid and licensed practical nurse hours. Registered-nurse hours actually declined, researchers said.

There was also improvement in nurse turnover rates. Though the 64% figure is still extremely high compared with most industries, it is down significantly from the 84% rate found in 2000. "While these findings indicate some progress, the number of homes with high turnover rates and low staffing is still too high," said lead researcher Charlene Harrington of the UCSF School of Nursing.

The state's nursing homes exceeded national averages for seven of nine measures for clinical care and quality of life. Meanwhile, the number of deficiencies per facility fell to 9.7 in 2003, compared with 13.2 just three years earlier.