Staffing, inspector shortages leading to increased complaints at NC nursing homes

As those staffing shortages have gotten greater, we’ve seen the amount of complaints go up 27% since 2016, according to the NCDHHS.
Published: Jul. 19, 2023 at 7:20 AM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Like several other states, North Carolina has struggled recently to hire and keep both healthcare workers and inspectors for nursing homes.

As those staffing shortages have gotten greater, we’ve seen the number of complaints go up 27% since 2016, according to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.

Whether it’s a doctor’s office, hospital or nursing home, there’s a huge need for trained healthcare workers. Officials with the NCDHHS say that’s leading to a consistent spike in complaints, ranging anywhere from lack of food to bed sores, at nursing homes.

In North Carolina, we have about 420 nursing homes but less than 100 inspectors to ensure the facilities are maintaining high standards of care. Of the 97 inspectors, about 15% of those positions go unfilled and the turnover rate is nearly 35%, meaning more than one out of three inspectors leave the job within their first year.

Without inspectors, complaints can take longer to check and correct. However, that’s not the only shortage the state is seeing.

“One common denominator that’s behind the rising complaints is that it comes back to staffing, and whether it’s having the adequate number of staff or the inadequate number of trained staff,” said Mark Benton, chief deputy secretary for health with the NCDHHS.

In 2022 alone there were over 3,000 complaints and over 9,000 allegations against nursing homes, the number steadily climbing between 2016 and 2021.

In 2022, the number of complaints and allegations was lower than in 2021 but was still higher than in 2020 and the years prior.

“We are engaged every day trying to recruit nurses and social workers and all of the licensed healthcare professionals that we need to do this job we. We look to our own internal human resources agencies, we do outreach to other schools and other organizations, we use LinkedIn and we heavily use our social media accounts to let folks know about these jobs,” said Benton.

Help could soon be on the way for nursing home inspectors, however. Governor Roy Cooper is proposing a new state budget to add 15 new positions along with salary increases. The hopes are that this will be included in the finalized state budget and help fill the much-needed roles.