Biden seeks minimum staff levels at US nursing homes

U.S. President Biden speaks about lowering healthcare costs at the White House in Washington, U.S.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Joe Biden's administration on Friday proposed setting federal minimum staffing levels for nursing homes, a move aimed at addressing longtime complaints about abuse and neglect in the industry that were highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic.

THE TAKE: Biden, a Democrat, pledged last year to protect American seniors' lives and life savings by cracking down on nursing homes that commit fraud or endanger patients' safety and address the chronic understaffing at long-term care facilities that was exposed during the pandemic.

BY THE NUMBERS: The nursing home industry takes in nearly $100 billion a year from U.S. taxpayers, yet many understaff their facilities, the White House said. The new rule proposes that facilities have a registered nurse (RN) on site around the clock. It says each resident should receive 2.45 hours (two hours and 27 minutes) of care from a nurse aide every day, plus at least 33 minutes of care from an registered nurse every day.

A nursing home would need two registered nurses for each eight hour shift and 10 nurse aids per eight-hour shift, the White House said. To meet the requirements, 68% of nursing homes would have to hire nurse aides and 36% of nursing homes would have to hire RNs, it said.

CONTEXT: During the pandemic, more than 200,000 nursing home residents and workers died, accounting for one-fifth of all COVID deaths in the country, the White House said in a fact sheet on the proposed changes. Staffing shortages, it said, may force nursing home residents to go without basic necessities like hot meals and regular baths, or even lie in wet and soiled diapers for hours. They also may suffer more falls and bedsores.

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Daniel Wallis)