U.S. Nursing Homes Overstated Staffing Levels

Most U.S. nursing homes had fewer nurses and care providers than they reported to federal officials for years, government records reveal.

The data show frequent and large differences in day-to-day staffing of nursing homes, with significant shortages on weekends, The New York Times reported.

On the lowest-staffed days at an average nursing home, employees cared for nearly twice as many residents as they did on fully-staffed days.

The data from daily payroll records from more than 14,000 nursing homes was analyzed by Kaiser Health News.

Medicare only recently began gathering and publishing the data, as required by the Affordable Care Act, The Times reported.

"It's not like the day-to-day life of nursing home residents and their needs vary substantially on a weekend and a weekday. They need to get dressed, to bathe and to eat every single day," David Stevenson, an associate professor of health policy at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, told The Times.

There are legitimate reasons for varying staffing levels in nursing homes, according toDavid Gifford, a senior vice president at the nursing home trade group American Health Care Association.

For example, there are fewer activities for residents and more family members around on weekends.

"While staffing is important, what really matters is what the overall outcomes are," he told The Times.

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