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Nursing home infections kill nearly 400,000 annually

A recent study shows a relationship between nursing home understaffing and deficient infection controls in nursing homes. The research indicates that the main cause of death among nearly 400,000 U.S. nursing home residents is infection-related illnesses.

The research, published this month in the American Journal of Infection Control, further explains such nursing home negligence and compiles data gathered between 2000 and 2007 from 96 percent of the nursing homes in the United States. Researchers examined and compared infection deficiency citation records, which are used to determine whether nursing homes qualify to receive Medicaid and Medicare certifications.

According to the study, about 15 percent of all nursing homes are issued deficiency citations each year for improper infection control. Looking more closely at the data, the researchers discovered a repeated connection between those nursing homes cited for infection violations and short-staffing problems.

Understaffing, the study reports, appears to be a major reason that nursing homes are neglecting sanitary practices. The research concluded that busy nursing home aides and nurses trying to double up work to make up for the staffing shortfall are failing to follow infection safety guidelines. Simple steps, like routine hand washing, are being overlooked, which may spread illnesses to long-term care residents from which many never recover.

Nursing homes that fall short of infection control standards receive no reimbursement from Medicaid or Medicare until sanitary standards are met. In several states, laws are already on the books that govern infection control measures to be taken in nursing homes.

Source: WMBF News, "1 in 7 U.S. nursing homes cited for poor infection control," 5/9/2011

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