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Nursing Home Patients to Suffer Due to Low RN Staffing Provisions in New Law

Deep cuts are in store for Illinois nursing homes. A recently signed Senate bill calls for 2.7 percent Medicaid rate cuts. These cuts may lead to even lower nursing home staff levels, which residents and nursing home victim’s advocates fiercely oppose.

Though a spokeswoman for the nursing industry stated that the state’s landmark 2010 nursing home reform law will not be impacted by the Medicaid rate cuts, there is a strong chance that patients will be neglected.

The 2010 law was intended to raise the standards of care and safety in Illinois’ troubled nursing homes. Nursing homes were required to raise staffing levels, meet higher standards before admitting patients with serious psychiatric issues, and isolate the most dangerous residents in secure units for more intensive monitoring and treatment. The goal was to rectify the gross mismanagement in nursing homes and enhance care. Opponents of the new law say that all this will change for the worse, and patients with mental illness and dementia will suffer neglect under the new system.

Changing demographics and the approaching retirement of the baby boomers highlight the need for more nurses to care for the aging population. The number of persons 60 years of age and older in the state of Illinois is expected to rise from 2 million to over 3.6 million between 2012 and 2030. This is approximately a 77% increase.

A lack of registered nurses (RNs) is a serious problem in Chicago-area nursing homes. Adequate staffing is a prerequisite for maintaining professional standards of care in a Chicago nursing home. Nurses must be properly qualified, skilled and experienced. The quality of care for mentally ill/dementia patients are affected by a lack of nursing care. Such patients require special therapy, but many mentally ill patients live in a setting where their needs are not met.

Our nursing home abuse lawyers realize that nursing shortages affect efficiency and result in nursing home negligence. Nurses will not have enough time to care for their patients and maintain patient safety. Failure to detect complications early can also raise the risk of death. Workload, stress or fatigue among nursing professionals can also have a dangerously negative impact on patient care.

These facts are supported by several studies. A recent study reported that hand hygiene is much higher in nursing homes with higher staffing levels that include registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, and nurse aides. The study reported that where staff was deficient, caregivers are likely in a rush and may not have the time to use proper hygiene techniques. High standards of hand hygiene go a long way in preventing and minimizing the spread of communicable diseases.