Understaffed Nursing Homes Need to Address the Deadly Sepsis Problem

Understaffed Nursing Homes Need to Address the Deadly Sepsis ProblemSepsis is killing elderly nursing home residents in Illinois because of understaffing, which leads to patient neglect. The Chicago Tribune and Kaiser Health News conducted an investigation which tracked infection-related deficiencies and staffing levels in Illinois nursing homes. Definitive Healthcare, a private health care data firm, examined the data related to nursing home residents who were transferred to hospitals and later died. The analysis found 25,000 residents each year suffered from sepsis and other health conditions. Between 2012 through 2016, treatment for these patients cost Medicare more than $2 billion each year.

The Chicago Tribune and Kaiser Health News investigation followed the story of Shana Dorsey, who lost her beloved father to sepsis because of bedsores that developed when he was a resident at Lakeview Rehabilitation and Nursing Center. Ms. Dorsey is suing the nursing facility for negligence.

Definitive Healthcare found that about 6,000 nursing home residents a year who were sent to the hospital had sepsis, and one in five of them died. University of Kansas sepsis expert, Dr. Steven Simpson said, “People don’t go to a nursing home so they can get sepsis and die. That is what is happening a lot.”

What is sepsis?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) describes sepsis as the body’s extreme response to an infection. It is a life-threatening medical emergency which occurs when an infection triggers a chain reaction throughout the body which can lead to septic shock, organ failure or death of not diagnosed and treated quickly.

What causes bedsores?

In these nursing home sepsis cases, the underlying infection which leads to sepsis and septic shock is bed sores or pressure ulcers. Bedsores, according to Mayo Clinic, often develop on skin that covers bony areas of the body, such as the heels, ankles, hip and tailbone. Those who are most at risk for bedsores are those who are unable to change positions and who spend most of their time in bed or sitting in a chair.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) considers stage three or worse bedsores to be a “never event,” which is a term used to describe particularly shocking medical errors that should never occur.

So, the trouble begins with bed sores, which are not attended to due to insufficient staff at nursing homes. Bedsores that are not attended to can treated can become infected, which can lead to sepsis, septic shock and death.

Illinois has low nursing home staffing levels, which leads to patient needs being neglected

The joint KHN-Tribune investigation found that staffing levels for nurses and aides in Illinois nursing homes were among the lowest in the country. The Tribune story reports that 78% of the nursing homes in the six-County Chicago area had among the lowest staffing levels in the country. The story goes on to describe how there are no federal regulations on how many nurses are required per resident, however, a 2001 recommendation from a federal study suggested 4.1 hours of total nursing time for each resident. Illinois only requires 2.5 hours of direct care for each resident, yet the KHN-Tribune study found cases where nursing homes are not even providing that level of care to residents.

State Sen. Jacqueline Collins, D-Chicago, introduced legislation in March which would impose more severe penalties for short-staffed nursing homes to limit deadly sepsis infections and boost the overall quality of care that residents receive. Collins’ bill, which AARP Illinois supports, does not change the state standard of nursing care hours, but it would require state nursing home regulators to obtain detailed Medicaid payroll data submitted by each nursing home and match it with the facility’s data to verify quarterly that each nursing home is meeting the state standard. Those facilities that failed would face steep fines, and they would be required to post at all doorways a notice informing the public that they had failed to provide proper staffing in the previous quarter.

AARP Illinois’ associate state director, Lori Hendren, said that her organization has increasingly received complaints about the horror stories of people struggling with inadequate care in understaffed homes. Shantonia Jackson, a certified nursing assistant reported her struggles of being responsible for as many as 15 Alzheimer’s patients at a time. She admits that the residents are not receiving proper care.

If you witness nursing home abuse or neglect in an Illinois nursing home or assisted living facility, you can call 911 if it is an emergency. Otherwise, contact the Illinois Department of Public Health:

Central Complaint Registry Hotline – 800-252-4343

Monday-Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

TTY for the Hearing Impaired Only- 800-547-0466

If you believe your loved one’s sepsis was a result of nursing home neglect, talk to the Chicago attorneys at Gainsberg Law today. We fight for the rights of your family and hold the guilty parties responsible. You can reach us through our contact form, or by calling 312.313.1621 to schedule a consultation today to discuss your case.

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