Image of nurses' hands at computer keyboard

Providers nationwide will be anxiously watching to see if there is traction in a lawsuit filed by the New Mexico attorney general alleging insufficient staffing made proper care impossible. Outgoing Attorney General Gary King sued seven nursing homes operated by Preferred Care Partners Management Group on Friday.

King’s filing claims that low staffing levels made it mathematically impossible to provide adequate care. Preferred Care is based in Plano, TX, and has facilities in at least 10 states, ranging from the Southeast to the Southwest and lower parts of the Midwest.

Preferred Care said in a statement that it had not had time to review the complaint but that charges might be focusing on practices that pre-date current ownership, according to a report in the Las Cruces (NV) Sun-News.

The case involves confidential witnesses from facility staff, who say managers were aware that nursing aides did not have enough time to administer showers or change adult briefs in a timely manner, the Sun-News reported. Other times, there weren’t enough aides to assist residents who required help eating or drinking, the paper added.

The lawsuit extrapolates care times needed for certain caregiving tasks. The facilities in question staffed at levels far below averages, according to various reports. If successful, the tactics used by prosecutors could be duplicated in cases in other states, observers say.