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Understaffed nursing homes
Elderly deserve better than this

March 8, 2002 | Page 2

MORE THAN 90 percent of U.S. nursing homes are horribly understaffed, according to a new federal government study. But the Bush administration isn't going to do anything about it.

The White House said it wouldn't impose minimum staffing requirements on the nursing home industry because the cost was "not currently feasible."

What's the cost of providing decent care for the elderly? About $7.6 billion a year--a mere 8 percent increase over current spending and a pittance compared to Bush's proposed $48 billion in new military spending.

Currently, most nursing homes have one nurse's aide for every eight to 14 residents--well below the one aide for every five residents recommended by the study. "A lot of people are left in bed wet and labeled as incontinent and bedbound, when in fact, they are continent, but the nursing home doesn't have enough staff to transfer them from bed to the bathroom," said Anna Spinella, an advocate for legislation to protect nursing home residents.

Instead of issuing new rules, the Bush administration plans to publish data on the staffing shortages, in the hopes that "nurse staffing levels may simply increase due to the market demand created by an informed public," the study says. What a joke!

In reality, Bush won't impose minimum staffing levels because the extra demand for nursing aides would force up wages, something that the nursing home bosses are dead set against.

Yet health care experts believe that increased staffing would actually save overall health care costs--by preventing acute problems that require patients to be hospitalized.

Doesn't matter to the Bush gang. They'd rather please profit-hungry health care executives than improve the quality of life for the elderly.

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