Staff to Patient Ratio: A Recipe for Negligence

Staff to Patient Ratio: A Recipe for Negligence

Many people may believe that nursing home litigation must originate from a bad act committed intentionally by a facility staff member against a patient.  This is not always the case, however.  Nursing home negligence cases can arise out of circumstances that are beyond the control of staff and patients alike.  For example, many nursing homes are operating with staffing shortages that range from a few vacant positions to extreme insufficiency of staff numbers in relation to the number of patients in the facility.  When this happens, patients’ lives can be at risk as staff members are physically unable to provide the treatment that is required to ensure all patients are cared for in a professional manner.

Staff to Patient Ratio

Each state typically has its own standards when it comes to nursing home staff to patient ratios.  For example, in Wisconsin, the law requires all nursing homes to have a licensed administrator, a charge nurse, and sufficient registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, or nursing aides. According to the law, each facility must have professional nursing staff care for patients for a range of .4 hours to .65 hours per day per resident depending on the level of their need (i.e. intermediate/limited need for care to intensive nursing care).  These laws were put into place in order to protect residents from institutions who made financial staffing decisions that created hazardous environments for patients who are in need of professional nursing care.  Without such laws, nursing home patients could be subjected to maltreatment by neglect by overworked or unlicensed staff members who were physically unable to provide the level of care that was necessary.

Calls for Reform

One report found a correlation between staffing levels and risk for negligence that some may use in support of reform efforts to make state laws more stringent as they apply to staffing minimums.  According to the report, “the chance of abuse or neglect is more likely in a facility with a high percentage of residents with dementia and a low staff ratio.”  The report continues by stating that a facility does not escape liability by hiring more low level aides, especially when a high number of at-risk patients reside there.  This correlation was linked to higher incidents of stress-induced backlash to a very natural symptom of diseases such as dementia or Alzheimer’s.  Patients with these types of diseases require extra care from skilled nursing staff as they often exhibit physically violent behaviors, or rebellious behavior that can be extremely taxing on untrained staff.

The Law Offices of Robert T. Edens, P.C.

Delicate Questions for Sensitive Issues

When a family makes the difficult decision to entrust the care of a loved one to a healthcare facility, it is not done lightly.  Family members want to make sure their loved one will receive a level of care that they are unable to provide themselves.  When this decision is made, the last thing a family needs is to find out that the people entrusted with that care have failed and that failure resulted in harm to their loved one.  If you have questions about nursing home negligence and need someone who is experienced in the law, call the Law Offices of Robert T. Edens, P.C today for a consultation.  Our Chicago attorneys are skilled in negligence and abuse cases and will work tirelessly to protect your interests as well as the interests of your loved ones.



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