Medicare Releases Important Personnel Information for Consumer Nursing Homes | health news

By RICARDO ALONSO-ZALDIVAR, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Medicare announced Wednesday that it is now posting details on staff turnover and weekend nursing on its Care Compare website, where families can research a facility, to shed light on key characteristics of nursing home quality.

The Biden administration’s move comes as COVID-19 cases and deaths in nursing homes have risen again despite extensive efforts to vaccinate residents and staff. Staffing is a critical factor in the quality and safety of nursing homes, but one key improvement to federal requirements is stuck in Congress, deadlocked with the rest of President Joe Biden’s sweeping social and climate legislation.

To find the new information, consumers must go to the Care Compare website, select a specific care home, and then click View Personal Information. On this page, scroll down the list to find details on weekend nurse staffing and below that turnover information for nurses and administrators.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) said they studied the relationship between staff turnover and quality of care. Initial results indicate that the overall assessment of a facility’s quality increases as staff turnover decreases. Nurse turnover is defined as the percentage of nurses who have retired from work at a facility over a 12-month period. Starting this summer, the agency will use the information on staff turnover to calculate its quality ratings for facilities, based on a five-star system.

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“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of staffing to the well-being of residents, and it is now more important than ever that CMS publish any staffing information that can improve quality,” said agency administrator Chiquita Brooks -LaSure, in a statement, “Residents and their families will also find this information valuable when considering a nursing home for themselves or a loved one.”

Nursing homes succeed or fail because of the quality of personal attention they provide to each resident.

Medicare said facilities with lower turnover of nurses may have more staff who are familiar with each resident and may be more quickly able to spot telltale changes in a patient’s condition that could indicate problems. For example, the nursing home may be able to put in place a plan to prevent a patient who is dragging her feet from falling and suffering a potentially life-changing injury.

Medicare said it also reports attrition among administrators because it can affect stability, governance and day-to-day operations, factors that translate into support for staff caring for patients.

Medicare’s action was hailed by a nationally known advocate for raising the bar on the quality of nursing homes.

“Manpower is the number one concern in nursing homes, and transparency about staffing is critical to the safety and well-being of residents,” said Terry Fulmer, president of the nonprofit John A. Hartford Foundation, which works to improve care for older adults.

But one of the key groups in the nursing home industry called the agency’s action “unmusical.” The American Health Care Association said in a statement the government should instead address a labor shortage that is leaving many direct care positions unfilled. “We repeatedly called for help, but no meaningful help was sent to the front lines,” the group said. “We need public health officials who not only recognize these challenges, but who are committed to addressing them.”

Medicare said releasing the new information to consumers will not create additional administrative burdens for nursing homes. The data is already regularly reported to the government; it just wasn’t readily available to the public.

The Biden social agenda bill pending in Congress would require nursing homes to have a registered nurse on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It would also start a process that could lead to federal staffing needs for nursing homes. These proposals have sparked a lobbying war: the care home industry says facilities are finding it hard enough to retain current staff, while consumer groups argue minimum staffing requirements are essential steps to better quality.

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