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The Quality of Nursing Home Care Down Despite Increased Govt. Reimbursement

April 9, 2008

Vittorio Hernandez - AHN News Writer

Sacramento, CA (AHN) - A study released Tuesday reported growing profitability of the nursing home industry, but declining health care quality.

Researchers from the University of California San Francisco found out that two years after the state passed legislation increasing reimbursements from Medi-Cal, average nursing home income from the state's healthcare program went up to $152 from $124 daily.

The same study discovered 16 percent of nursing homes in the state failed to measure up to California's minimum staffing benchmarks. A minimal rise in average salary for nursing assistants by less than one dollar was not sufficient to cover inflation rate increases. Even higher-paid nurses had a fast turnover rate, with 7 in 10 resigning from their jobs in 2006.

But average spending on direct patient care went down by 3.6 percent, while complaints of patient mistreatment proven went up by 36 percent.

Charlene Harrington, the lead author of the study, wrote as her comment, quoted by the Los Angeles Times, ""They got so much money, they should have been able to do something.""

Betsy Hite, spokeswoman for the California Association of Health Facilities, said it was too early to judge the nursing homes. She admitted the legislation turned around the association members' finances, but would prefer true accounting of funds received from the Medi-Cal to be done closer to 2009.

Meanwhile, United Way, a charitable organization which funds nursing homes, soup kitchens and other social service providers, reported difficulty in raising funds. Carol McCormack, president of United Way Mesa, attributed the decline in donations to the slump in the housing industry since architects, engineers, real estate agents and construction workers form the bulk of the group's major donors. The shortfall in fund raising this year was $350,000, McCormack told the San Francisco Examiner.