There is no question that understaffing in California’s nursing homes is one of the main causes of nursing home abuse and neglect in these care facilities. According to a column by J.G. Preston, who is the press secretary for the Consumer Attorneys of California (CAOC), understaffing in nursing homes can be downright dangerous to the health and well-being of residents.

Preston cites a recent study done by the University of Pittsburgh and published in the May issue of the American Journal of Infection Control. This study basically finds a strong correlation between low staffing levels and the receipt of an infection control deficiency citation at nursing homes. Infections are the leading cause of death in nursing homes – about 400,000 deaths a year nationwide.

What is the connection between understaffing and infections? When staffing levels are low, the study found, caregivers are likely to be hurried and have less time to focus on important infection control measures such as washing their hands. It is interesting to note that the study also finds a strong link between infection citations and nursing homes’ for-profit status.

Putting Profits over People

According to the Center for Medicaid Services’ statistics, the percentage of nursing homes that are operated as for-profit corporations in the United States rose from 65.6 percent in 2004 to 67.4 percent in 2008. Several studies have also shown that for-profit nursing homes are more likely than their non-profit counterparts to be cited for deficiencies in quality of care. We do observe that nursing home neglect is prevalent in nursing homes that are run by large corporations.

Protecting Consumers’ Rights

California and many other states have staffing requirements for nursing homes. There are also penalties for failure to meet those requirements. But is there adequate enforcement in California and elsewhere in the nation to ensure that these requirements are being met? A nursing home that hankers after profits and fails to pay attention to the needs of its residents is creating an environment that is ripe for abuse and neglect. When nursing homes are understaffed because the company wants to build its profits, the quality of care in the facility will inevitably drop.

Nursing homes that put profits ahead of the people they serve should be held accountable. If you or a loved one has been a victim of nursing home abuse or neglect, please contact an experienced California personal injury lawyer, who will ensure that your legal rights are protected and that the negligent nursing home is held liable.

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