Now is the Time

Industry-wide Problems

COVID-19’s unrelenting spread exposed deep, systemic problems with the quality of care — or lack thereof — at nursing homes. CDC reports at least 150,000 COVID deaths in U.S. nursing homes. The industry’s track record was horrible before COVID.

Multiple studies find that nursing homes with fewer nursing staff members experienced significantly higher COVID infection and death rates. That negative outcome bolsters the argument by patient advocates that nursing homes must hire more workers. Safe staffing saves lives.

“Some of these problems that we saw in the pandemic could have been avoided if nursing homes had adequate staffing,” said Harrington, who co-authored a December 2020 study that showed nursing homes with lower staffing levels earlier that year had twice the COVID case rates than those with higher staffing levels.

Act Now

We need to radically rethink how we reimburse and supervise care. Patient advocates, experts, and family members believe now is the time to overhaul the system.

Charlene Harrington is a professor emerita of social and behavioral sciences at the University of California-San Francisco and an expert on staffing in nursing homes

“There are a lot of problems people have complained about for a long time. This is an opportunity to correct those problems.”

Most experts and patient advocates suggest that the best way to improve care is to boost staffing. The industry always argues for more money to deliver better results. But we need to know how nursing homes use that money. Demanding transparency about how skilled nursing facilities make and spend their money makes common sense. Of course, industry profits negate the industry’s argument for needing more taxpayer dollars.