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North Carolina Nursing Home Evacuations Highlight Understaffing Risks

Hurricane Florence revealed significant understaffing issues at nursing homes in North Carolina as facilities evacuated patients. Nursing homes need to be prepared for natural disasters.

North Carolina nursing homes An NPR report noted that 10 North Carolina nursing homes evacuated in anticipation of Hurricane Florence, but many residents remained in facilities across the state under threat of flooding and power outages. Hurricane Florence recently brought a threat of severe flooding through much of Eastern and Central North Carolina; and meteorologists underscores that life-threatening storm surges could affect residents in various parts of the state even; hundreds of miles from the coast. Many hospitals and nursing homes were under mandatory evacuation orders; which highlighted the fragility of those patients. Including the limited staff members on hand to help with safe and effective evacuations.

Understaffing at nursing homes in North Carolina is a serious problem. Although nursing homes and assisted-living facilities in the High Point area largely were spared from the damage associated with the hurricane; the difficulty evacuating patients made clear that facilities need to ensure that they have adequate staff members to handle the needs of patients. Especially in emergency situations. Rising flood waters in parts of the state resulted in an open vehicle run by the “Cajun Navy”; transporting nursing home staff members and patients to safety.

When there are insufficient facility staff members elderly patients can suffer serious consequences.

Just before the storm hit the Carolinas, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) received a complaint about a patient death at a nursing facility in Central North Carolina caused by inadequate staffing. CMS emphasized that families should not rely on self-reported data from nursing homes about staffing numbers. That data often gives an incomplete picture of daily staffing numbers, especially on a regular basis.

According to Bryant Aldridge, an attorney in High Point, North Carolina, the storm surge from Hurricane Florence revealed that nursing homes in the state need to be better prepared for emergency situations in order to prevent injuries caused by elder abuse and neglect. As Aldridge articulated, “elderly North Carolinians who reside in nursing homes rely on those facilities to provide quality care. However, when those facilities are understaffed; seniors can face neglect that can result in life-threatening and fatal injuries.”

To prevent instances of nursing home abuse and neglect; North Carolina nursing facilities needs to be prepared for daily incidents of all types involving seniors at the facility. As well as large-scale emergencies like hurricanes and other natural disasters. Increasing staffing numbers at nursing homes could help to prevent injuries when emergencies occur.

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