NEW YORK - Many nursing homes are so understaffed they may be endangering the welfare of their patients, according to a new report by federal health officials.
The report, which will be presented to Congress later this month, recommends stricter guidelines that would require thousands of nursing homes to hire more nurses and nurses' aides, The New York Times reported Sunday.
After eight years of research, health officials concluded that understaffing has contributed to increased incidences of severe bedsores, malnutrition, and abnormal weight loss among nursing home patients.
A high number of those patients end up developing life-threatening infections, dehydration and other problems that could have been prevented had the homes been staffed adequately, the study said.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends new federal standards to guarantee that patients receive a minimum of two hours of care each day from nurses aides, among other things. The study says that 54 percent of nursing homes currently fall below the proposed minimum standard.
The report also recommends that patients receive at least 12 minutes a day of care from registered nurses. Currently, 31 percent of nursing homes do not meet that standard.
Nursing homes said it was impossible for the government to propose minimum staffing guidelines when it was providing inadequate subsidies under Medicare and Medicaid, the Times reported.
Many nursing home officials said it was also difficult to attract and retain good workers due to the boom-time economy of recent years.