According to data gathered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were more than 20 million emergency room (ER) visits in 2012-2013 nationwide for adults aged 65 and older.
Patients from nursing homes made up a large percentage of this group. Do staff members rely on the use of 911 calls to transfer sick or injured residents to the emergency room?
Reasons for ER visits
There are three main reasons for nursing home patients to visit an ER:
- Nurses have the training to provide chronic care but not necessarily acute care.
- Nursing homes are not well-equipped with diagnostics and need hospitals for lab testing and EKGs.
- Physicians are not always present in nursing homes. They are often unavailable on nights, weekends and holidays.
Over the past two and a half years, staffing levels in Arkansas nursing homes have steadily declined, according to the Arkansas Advocates for Nursing Home Residents. Residents do not get the care they need in an understaffed facility. In some cases, one nurse is responsible for tending up to 35 residents. If someone becomes ill or sustains an injury, the normal response is to call 911 and arrange for transfer to an ER.
The Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987 sets nursing home standards for high-quality care. Every facility that receives Medicare or Medicaid must conform to these standards. However, if staffing issues result in sub-par attention for a resident, he or she may eventually require care in a hospital environment, initiated by a staff member’s 911 call. This progression of events may cause concern for families who fear it is the result of negligence. Depending on the outcome for their loved one, they may consider bringing legal action against the nursing home.