A leading industry advocate is firing back, a few days after one U.S. senator demanded changes related to nursing home staffing.
Last week, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) sent a sharply worded letter to the head of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. In it, the ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance demanded answers on how the federal government plans to better hold nursing homes accountable for staffing decisions, in the wake of a critical New York Times story.
LeadingAge countered those remarks on Friday, with its own statement and a separate letter to CMS head Seema Verma. President and CEO Katie Smith Sloan agreed with Wyden that “consumers and their family members deserve the most timely, accurate information about the quality of nursing home care.” But she questioned the Oregon senator’s criticisms of the new Payroll-Based Journal (PBJ) system of staffing reporting.
“Understaffing and inaccurate reporting are issues that must be addressed,” Smith Sloan said in the statement. “However, the PBJ system just implemented by CMS is not the problem; it is the solution created to correct the previous issue of inaccurate reporting. Give it time. As the PBJ system continues in effect, there likely will be more continuity in staffing levels reported by individual nursing homes.”
In her letter to Verma, Smith Sloan also requested that CMS change its policy to adjust a nursing home’s Five Star rating as soon as PBJ staffing data has been corrected, instead of waiting until the end of each quarter. Losing a star can have “serious consequences for nursing homes,” she noted.
Members of LeadingAge — which represents 2,000 nonprofit nursing homes across the country — have experienced headaches using the new system, with data not showing up correctly in Nursing Home Compare. She urged patience as the field looks to “work out the kinks” in the system.
Smith Sloan added that the underlying issue, spelled out in the Times/Kaiser Health report, is that nursing homes are struggling to recruit staff after hours or on weekends. And that’s why LeadingAge has established its own Center for Workforce Solutions to tackle the challenge.
“As difficult as it is for many nursing homes to recruit and retain the overall numbers of staff they need to care for their residents, evening and weekend shifts are especially difficult to fill,” she said.