California Nursing Homes with Smaller Nursing Staffs Twice as Likely to Have Residents with COVID-19

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By Milenko Martinovich

California nursing homes with total RN staffing below levels recommended by experts and research studies were twice as likely to have COVID-19 resident infections, according to a study led by researchers from the UCSF School of Nursing.

Establishing minimum staffing standards at the federal and state levels is critical to addressing the ongoing crisis in nursing homes, as well as preventing harmful outcomes in the future, the researchers said.

The study, published July 7 in Policy, Politics & Nursing Practice, compared nursing homes in California, with and without COVID-19 positive residents. Of the almost 1,100 California nursing homes examined, about 80 percent fell short of recommended nurse staffing levels (0.75 hours per resident day). From March to May 4, 2020, COVID-19 positive residents were found in 272 (or 25 percent) of these nursing homes, Nursing homes with COVID-19 positive residents were more than twice as likely to have RN staffing below the recommended staffing levels.

They also found that nursing homes with lower Medicare ratings for RN staffing and total staffing, those with a history of previous health deficiencies, and those that were larger in size had a higher probability of having COVID-19 residents.

Professors Charlene Harrington (lead author) and Susan Chapman, assistant professor Elizabeth Halifax, and specialist Leslie Ross contributed to the report.

Almost 26,000 nursing home residents in the U.S. have died from COVID-19, with 2,980 of those deaths occurring in California, according to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), as of July 21. The CDPH also reported 104 health care workers who worked in California nursing homes have died from COVID-19.

(Posted: July 30, 2020)