Pennsylvania nursing home residents at risk during viral outbreaks

A group of researchers retrospectively analyzed data from Jan. 2009 to Dec. 2010 detailing rates of Medicare-certified nursing home resident hospital admission and death surrounding outbreaks of norovirus in three states. One of those states was Pennsylvania, and the findings are alarming. The findings appear to indicate that during periods of norovirus outbreak, the admissions rate and death rates from all illnesses increases among residents.

According to the study, during periods of norovirus outbreak, hospital admission and mortality rates rose 9 percent and 11 percent respectively. The next step in the investigative process is to determine if norovirus is directly attributing to these increases or if it is the disruption of care because of the large number of infected patients and staff members that contributes to this.

Perhaps one of the most salient points of this study was that there was not found to be any increased risk of hospital admissions or mortality rates among residents during periods of norovirus outbreak in nursing homes that staffed a greater number of registered nurses per resident.

In an overwhelming number of cases, nursing homes will blame any negligence on understaffing. This is typically because while these facilities are all governed by both states and federal regulations, they are also for-profit. Unfortunately, the for-profit piece of this means that many nursing home facilities will attempt to save costs on staffing expenses, therefore the facility will not have adequate care available for all residents. During periods of norovirus outbreak, this could mean the difference between life or death for an elderly resident.

If an individual in Pennsylvania is concerned because they feel like their family member is not being properly cared for in a nursing home facility, they could seek legal counsel and possibly even financial remuneration.

Source: MedPage Today, “Norovirus Tied to Nursing Home Deaths,” Michael Smith, Oct. 18, 2012



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