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Nursing Home Infections

Published on January 10th, 2018

The L.A. Times reported the problem with infection control at nursing homes, and the lack of enforcement by investigators.  “Basic steps to prevent infections — such as washing hands, isolating contagious patients and keeping ill nurses and aides from coming to work — are routinely ignored in the nation’s nursing homes, endangering residents and spreading hazardous germs.”

Inspection records show nurses and aides are often not familiar with basic protocols, such as wearing protective clothing when coming into contact with contagious residents and isolating them from others in the home and visitors. Others are not trained properly on how to clean patients. Still others, in a rush and understaffed, take shortcuts that compromise sanitary precautions

Infections, most of which are avoidable, cause a quarter of the medical injuries Medicare beneficiaries experience in nursing homes, according to a federal report. They are among the most frequent reasons residents are sent back to the hospital. By one government estimate, healthcare-associated infections may result in as many as 380,000 deaths each year.

A Kaiser Health News analysis of four years of federal inspection records shows 74% of nursing homes have been cited for lapses in infection control — more than for any other type of health violation.  However, only 1 of 75 homes found deficient in those four years has received a high-level citation that can result in a financial penalty, the analysis found.  Only 161 homes among the 12,056 that violated infection-control rules were cited at those higher levels since 2014, according to Kaiser Health News’ analysis.

As average hospital stays have shortened to 4.5 days in 2012 from 7.3 days in 1980, patients who a generation ago would have fully recuperated in hospitals now frequently conclude their recoveries in nursing homes.  “You’ve got this influx of vulnerable patients but the staffing models are still geared more to the traditional long-stay resident,” said Dr. Nimalie Stone, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s medical epidemiologist for long-term care. “[That] kind of care is so much more complicated that facilities need to consider higher staffing.”

Joe Pioletti
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