As a Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyer, I know that the spread of contagious disease is a major problem in nursing homes and hospitals. Contagious diseases are those that spread quickly from person to person, like the flu. Not surprisingly, they’re a problem in every living situation where many people are clustered together — but they’re an especially big problem in nursing homes, where residents are more likely to be elderly and unwell. Now, a new study from the University of Pittsburgh has found that about 15% of nursing homes across the U.S. are cited for problems in their infection control practices each year. The study drew from records of citations used by evaluators considering homes for Medicare or Medicaid certification, which almost every home must have.
Pitt’s Graduate School of Public Health looked through publicly available deficiency citation records from the years 2000 to 2007. The records included 16,000 nursing homes, about 96% of all homes. The results were not encouraging. One in seven homes had some kind of citation for problems in their strategies for controlling infectious disease. 48.6% of those citations were at a level indicating potential for more than minimal harm to the patient. The authors also noticed an upward trend, meaning the problem is getting worse over time. In 2000, 12.87% of homes had a deficiency citation for disease control; that number was 17.31% in 2007. And the authors said the deficiency citations were strongly correlated with a low quality of care overall and low staffing levels for nurses’ aides, registered nurses or licensed practical nurses. They suggested that staffing problems may make it tempting for caregivers to skip important infection control measures like adequate hand-washing.
I couldn’t agree more. As a Pennsylvania nursing home lawyer, I know that research shows low staffing levels at nursing homes is correlated with increased abuse and neglect. And while poor infection control is not usually Pennsylvania nursing home abuse, it is most certainly a form of neglect. For older people who are ill enough to go to full-time assisted care, infectious diseases can be deadly. Things like the flu or gastroenteritis might send a healthy adult to bed for a few days, but the associated dehydration and other stresses on the body can put a nursing home patient in the hospital. And preventing infectious diseases is relatively simple: caregivers, food handlers and others must be vigilant about washing their hands; not come to work ill; and separate patients who are known to be infected. As a Philadelphia injury lawyer, I believe nursing homes should give their staffs the time to take these steps, even if that means hiring more people, because lives can be on the line.
Rosenbaum & Associates represents families throughout greater Philadelphia and Pennsylvania that have suffered an illness, injury or loss in the family because of a nursing home’s negligence. For a free, confidential evaluation of your case, call us toll-free at 1-800-7-LEGAL-7 or send us a message online today.