In Florida and other areas of the nation, nursing homes care for hundreds of thousands of individuals. A congressional investigation has revealed a critical lack of oversight for these facilities. This issue puts the lives of vulnerable people at risk and holds many dire implications for nursing home residents.
Severe staffing issues
States have agencies tasked with overseeing nursing home regulations, but these agencies have seen frequent inspector turnover, high job vacancy rates and low wages. This decades-old problem has worsened in recent years due to pandemic-related retirements and a shortage of experienced inspectors. These and other challenges have negatively impacted the agencies’ ability to conduct timely nursing home inspections.
Even after traumatic reports of poor care and violence taking place inside nursing care homes, inspectors often delay or never investigate the facilities. This negligence puts residents’ lives at risk and emphasizes the need for robust oversight to ensure safe, quality care.
Nursing home inspectors are typically healthcare professionals such as registered nurses, social workers, dietitians, and pharmacists. Due to these individuals’ ability to perform other jobs, the state must compete with private industry on salaries and benefits. The job also involves high stress and emotional demands that, along with the low pay, have inspectors leaving for better-paying positions. These issues deplete the number of available inspectors, which exacerbates the problem of poor oversight.
More than one president has appealed to Congress for increased funding for nursing home oversight improvements to combat nursing home neglect and other problems. However, Congress has yet to respond, and the federal budget for nursing home oversight has stalled. This problem has led to deterioration in the enforcement of regulations. Resources have been further strained by the effects of COVID-19 and inflation, further exacerbating the problem.
Nursing home reform
Any attempts at reforming nursing home regulations to improve residents’ safety may have challenges ahead. The existing issue of weak enforcement does not provide any hope that states will be able to carry out new regulatory reforms. The congressional report that uncovered the problems emphasizes that any successful reform must have a foundation of adequate and timely inspections, and this step has not yet become a reality.
The lack of nursing home oversight poses a critical threat to the health and safety of vulnerable nursing home residents. The urgency of the matter and the need for an adequately funded oversight system cannot be overstated.