A judgment of more than $670 million against nursing home company Skilled Healthcare Group Inc. in California underscores a message I hope that all nursing home operators will hear: Staffing levels matter. Patients and family members had brought a class-action lawsuit against the company, and the Los Angeles Times recently reported that a Humboldt County, CA, jury ordered Skilled Healthcare to pay damages for having understaffed 22 assisted living facilities. The jury imposed the maximum damages for violating California health and safety codes requiring 3.2 nursing hours per patient per day, along with $58 million in restitution. The jury has not yet decided whether to require Skilled Healthcare to pay punitive damages as well. The company, which also operates nursing homes in seven other states, vowed to appeal the jury's decision. As a Philadelphia nursing home negligence attorney, I'm glad that the patients and family members stood up for themselves and that the jury found in their favor.
As I wrote several months ago, staffing levels are extremely important to the quality of care a nursing home patient receives, and ultimately to their quality of life. Low staffing levels can result in serious, negative consequences for patients. Staff members can forget to administer medication or read a patient's treatment plan. They can be delayed in responding to call buttons because they're busy with other patients. Over time, bedsores or dehydration could develop without busy staff members noticing. Some staff members feel so stressed and overworked that they take out their anger and resentment on patients. Others might see opportunities to steal from nursing home residents -- opportunities that they wouldn't act on if there were other staffers around.
We have written about many situations like these from our perspective as Pennsylvania nursing home abuse lawyers. Studies show that understaffing at nursing homes is a real problem, depriving staff members of the time they need to provide the best care. As Philadelphia nursing home neglect attorneys, we hope that nursing homes will live up to their obligation to provide appropriate staffing levels.