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Buyer Beware-Nursing Home Neglect

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Your stay at a nursing home in Massachusetts may be a one way ticket to a hospital. Today the Boston Globe reports the series woes prevalent in Massachusetts nursing homes. The report cites lack of qualified staffing and overreliance on nurse practitioners (rather than M.D.’s) as a cause.

What could be minor medical problems–such as dehydration, urinary tract infections, chronic pulmonary disease and congestive heart failure–are either ignored long enough to faciliate more serious conditions or are not appreciated by physicians due to lack of contact with the patient. This leads to a situation where “90 percent of the time,” the physician will (over the telephone) come to understand a patient’s condition and immediately order the patient to be transferred to an emergency room. A study blames unnecessary hospitalizations (as high as one third of all hospitalizations) on nurses’ inability to recognize symptoms and doctor unavailability.

Of the tens of thousands of nursing home residents, the recent crisis claimed to exist at hospitals, a reduction in the amount of nursing home hospitalizations by one third may drastically affect the ability of hospital staff to treat patients. This, along with the prospect of better medical care in Massachusetts nursing homes, seems to be the right track and will hopefully have a positive influence on medical care and, perhaps, insurance rates for health care providers.