09 Jul Virginia: Nursing Homes – a Lawyer’s Understaffing
The 7/7/18 front-page expose by The New York Times, entitled “‘It’s Almost Like a Ghost Town.’ Most Nursing Homes Overstated Staffing for Years,” corroborates prior lawsuit allegations by Mr. Waterman, based on his consulting expert’s analysis of Medicare payroll data reported by a local Defendant nursing home. Earlier this year, Plaintiff alleged that systematic duplicitous understaffing by a VHS nursing facility contributed to the patient falls and wrongful death of its victim resident in the medical malpractice case of Davis v. Virginia Health Services, Inc., No. CL1703550F-15 in Circuit Court for the City of Newport News, Virginia.
The New York Times lead article vindicates the Davis core allegation: nursing homes like Virginia Health Services intentionally “game the [government’s five-star rating] system” by ramping-up its self-reported staffing for the pivotal 2-week federal inspection period, while VHS’ actual daily payroll reports for the remaining 50 weeks of the year reveal its true chronic manipulated short-staffing:
Most nursing homes had fewer nurses and caretaking staff than they had reported to the government for years, according to new federal data, bolstering the long-held suspicions of many families that stafﬁng levels were often inadequate.
The records for the ﬁrst time reveal frequent and signiﬁcant ﬂuctuations in day-to-day stafﬁng, with particularly large shortfalls on weekends. On the worst staffed days at an average facility, the new data show, on-duty personnel cared for nearly twice as many residents as they did when the stafﬁng roster was fullest.
The data, analyzed by Kaiser Health News, come from daily payroll records Medicare only recently began gathering and publishing from more than 14,000 nursing homes, as required by the Affordable Care Act of 2010. Medicare previously had been rating each facility’s stafﬁng levels based on the homes’ own unveriﬁed reports [for the 2-week inspection period], making it possible to game the system.
The payroll records provide the strongest evidence that over the last decade, the government’s ﬁve-star rating system for nursing homes often exaggerated stafﬁng levels and rarely identiﬁed the periods of thin stafﬁng that were common.
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In April, the government started using daily payroll reports to calculate average stafﬁng ratings, replacing the old method, which relied on homes to report stafﬁng for the two weeks before an inspection. The homes sometimes anticipated when an inspection would happen and could staff up before it.
See, 7/7/18 The New York Times (emphasis added). Moreover, the chronic short-staffing by Virginia Health Services alleged was not limited to just one VHS nursing home.