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Study: 1 in 5 nursing homes face severe PPE and staff shortages

People in nursing homes make up less than 1% of the U.S. population. However, they account for 43% of all COVID-19 deaths, according to the COVID Tracking Project. Our loved ones are very vulnerable to this disease, and adequate staffing and personal protective equipment (PPE) are essential to their care.

A new study found that around 20% of nursing homes reported severe PPE and staffing shortages this summer, and that number did not get much better over time.

Shortage reports barely budged between early and mid-summer

The study, which was published in the journal Health Affairs, was performed by researchers from Harvard Medical School, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the University of Rochester, New York. The researchers analyzed data that nursing homes provided to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services in two periods: mid-May through mid-June and late June through mid-July.

In the first time period, 20.7% of nursing homes said they were suffering a severe PPE shortage, which meant they had one week or less of supplies. The most common shortage was in N95 masks, which are recommended for health care providers. By the second period, 19.1% of the homes were reporting severe PPE shortages.

The situation was similar with staffing shortages. 20.8% of nursing homes reported staffing shortages in the early summer period, with nurses and nursing aides the most common types of staff needed. In the midsummer period, the shortages had actually gotten worse, with 21,9% of homes reporting staffing shortages.

The researchers reported high rates of PPE shortages in states that are struggling to control the virus this summer, including Tennessee, Iowa, North Carolina and Alabama.

"We have been slow to provide resources to nursing homes, and when we have provided them, they have been inadequate," said one of the authors of the study.

What's more, the fact that a nursing home had a PPE shortage could be an indicator of other problems. Homes reporting PPE shortages were more likely to be part of a for-profit chain and also to have coronavirus cases among residents and staff.

When it came to staffing shortages, the most likely nursing homes to experience the problem were government-run, receiving greater percentages of their earnings from Medicaid, and with lower quality ratings.

Across the U.S., there are about a million nursing home shifts a day, which means that huge numbers of N95 masks are needed.

Currently, any additional funding for nursing homes is stalled as part of the coronavirus relief package.

We must remain vigilant to protect our loved ones. If you are concerned about staffing or PPE shortages at your loved one's nursing home, discuss your situation with an attorney who handles nursing home litigation.

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