Safe Staffing and COVID

In the US, approximately 27% of deaths due to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) are residents of nursing homes. The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) released a study finding that safe staffing prevents COVID-19 cases. Across 8 states, high-performing nursing homes for nurse staffing had fewer COVID-19 cases than low-performing nursing homes.

In contrast, there was no significant difference in the burden of COVID-19 cases between high- vs low-performing homes for health inspection or quality measure ratings. These findings suggest that poorly resourced NHs with nurse staffing shortages may be more susceptible to the spread of COVID-19. Safe staffing saves lives.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) rates nursing homes across 3 unique domains—health inspections, quality measures, and nurse staffing. Those with greater staffing are better at containing the spread of COVID-19 among staff and residents.

Although guidance on best practices on infection control are important, which has been the primary strategy used by CMS to date, policies that provide immediate safe staffing support may be more effective at mitigating the spread of COVID-19. Safe staffing saves lives.

This study included data from only 8 states. However, these states rank among those with the highest COVID-19 burden. In addition, high-performing homes may have greater capacity to test and diagnose cases, which may lead to an underestimate of the association between low performance on the staffing domain and higher COVID-19 cases.

Eric Carlson is a long-term care expert with the advocacy group Justice in Aging. He told ABC News that when facilities don’t have enough staff, residents suffer from lower quality of care.

Carlson explained that “When nurse aides are responsible for too many residents, they don’t have the time to follow the proper infection prevention procedures. It’s penny wise and pound foolish for facilities to short-staff facilities, since this research shows that overworked staff leads to infections and deaths. “

Citation: Figueroa JF, Wadhera RK, Papanicolas I, et al. Association of Nursing Home Ratings on Health Inspections, Quality of Care, and Nurse Staffing With COVID-19 Cases. JAMA.