Staffing Issues Revealed

New research highlights longstanding staffing issues within nursing homes. Inadequate staffing, infection control and poor quality of care were problems before the pandemic hit according to Tara Sklar. Now, the staffing issues reveal systemic problems. Low-staffing in nursing homes affects the overall quality of care.  Sklar is a University of Arizona professor and director of the Health Law and Policy Program at the James E. Rogers College of Law.

“What (COVID-19) did was take something that was bad and made it devastating,” Sklar told KTAR News 92.3 FM.

Low wages, lack of access to paid sick leave and low staff-to-patient ratios are the main factors that turned nursing homes into coronavirus hotspots.

“When you don’t have adequate staffing levels it really hinders your ability to properly get ahead of preventing and controlling an infection from spreading.”

Sklar explained low wages contribute to a higher turnover rate. Many employees work multiple jobs increasing the risk of them contracting and spreading the virus to vulnerable patients. Nursing homes need to provide hazard pay, a living wage and non-punitive sick leave to staff, among other benefits.

Sklar added 82% of nursing homes received a citation for poor infection control before the coronavirus pandemic. This shows it is a widespread problem of lack of training due to being understaffed. The pandemic has revealed the lack of investment in staff, from inadequate training to poor pay to lack of PPE and testing.

Now, with more than 1,000 staff deaths in nursing homes, the caregiver is “the most dangerous job in America,” he said.