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Skilled Healthcare Group Inc., the 10th largest nursing home chain in 2009, is involved in a class-action lawsuit currently unfolding in California, which claims that they have put elderly residents at risk and skirted state law by skimping on staff to make more money.

The class-action case includes more than 32,000 nursing home residents, who claim that staffing problems have plagued homes operated by Skilled Healthcare Group Inc. The plaintiffs argue that understaffing is one of the primary causes of inadequate care and often unsafe conditions in skilled nursing homes. They hope to collect a multimillion-dollar judgment and improve care.

Plaintiffs contend that the California nursing homes were out of compliance for thousands of days over the six-year period covered by the lawsuit, and penalties can be up to $500 per resident for each day the law was violated. Lawyers for the nursing home residents say,

“We want to change the corporate culture of the for-profit nursing operators to have them start paying more attention to the nursing of the residents and less attention to shareholders.”

California Health and Safety Code requires that nursing homes provide at least 3.2 nursing hours per resident per day, which includes care by registered nurses, licensed vocational nurses, and certified nursing assistants.

Company officials did not specifically respond to the charge that their staffing levels broke the law, but said that they said that they disagree with the plaintiffs’ assertions that staffing requirements were “routinely violated.” They contend that “no set staffing level defines quality. Staffing levels should be set by medical staff in each home to meet individual needs of patients.”

Understaffing is a problem in nursing homes that I blog on frequently. I believe that more should be done to take care of the elderly, and that nursing homes should adequately staff their homes in order to provide sufficient care for their residents. You can read more on understaffing in some of my previous blogs:

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