Elderly residents of nursing homes and hospitals are often victims of falls and related injuries. As such, one bad fall can significantly lengthen a patient’s hospital stay, which can increase the risk of further complications, as falls can lead to broken bones and even death. However, these occurrences are highly preventable with adequate staffing and fall prevention procedures. Safety experts even state bad falls are events which should never take place inside protective settings such as hospitals.
Currently, 39 states do not require hospitals to report instances of falls that occur within their facilities. However, many states, such as California, require hospitals to report incidences of falls that occur within the hospital to the state health department. Some hospitals have begun moving toward the implementation of more fall prevention methods, and they have proven to be very successful. For example, an increased movement towards patient safety and fall prevention occurred in Washington, when around 90 people fell victim to injuries and death due to falls last year.
Hospitals are expected to assess a patient’s fall risk. If any patient is determined to be a high risk for falls, special precautions should be implemented to prevent falls from occurring. One hospital implemented bed alarms in their patients’ beds which would go off every time a high risk patient got out of their bed. Staff at the hospital found the bed alarms to be effective in fall prevention. However, bed alarms were not sufficient to fill any deficiency in adequacy of care if the facility was understaffed. Nursing staff acknowledged the fact that while preventative fall measures such as bed alarms contributed toward the goal of fall prevention, it was not a sufficient substitute for a shortage of staff. Even if the bed alarms went off, the facility still needed a staff member nearby to respond to the alarm.
Nurses have admitted that many preventable injuries were often the result of understaffing. Auburn Medical Center is a hospital located in Washington. This facility had the highest reported number of falls in the past few years. In 2012, however, the facility increased its patient safety measures by adding one hundred more staff members. As a result, it was found that their reported fall rates for the current year decreased significantly. In a period of less than one year, the number of falls at Auburn decreased by two-thirds. This is just one recent example of the effectiveness of proper staffing, and the difference it can make in improving patients’ lives and the quality of patient care.
Understaffing not only contributes to inadequate care and the occurrence of preventable patient injuries, but it is also a violation of the Patient’s Bill of Rights. The Patient’s Bill of Rights requires that every skilled nursing facility employ an adequate number of qualified staff members to carry out the facility’s functions. In addition, California requires nursing homes to provide a minimum of 3.2 nursing hours per patient per day. However, the number of staff members is not the only relevant factor in providing adequate care because the facility’s staff must also be qualified and experienced in administering such care. At the Law Offices of Ben Yeroushalmi, we believe all patients and nursing home residents are entitled to high quality health care. If you believe the facility in which your elderly loved one is residing is failing to meet the standard of care due to understaffing, we encourage you to call us at (888) 606-3453 for a free consultation today. We are located in both Northern and Southern California and serve cities throughout the state. Help us fight against elder abuse and neglect that arises as a result of understaffing.