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Will Staffing Shortages in Health Care Lead to More Personal Injury Claims?

hallway with lights on in hospitalMany industries are understaffed, which creates a host of problems for these industries and the customers and clients they serve.

Attorneys who represent plaintiffs have told The Legal Intelligencer understaffing is an issue that has come up much more frequently in recent times. They say understaffing at places like hospitals, prisons and long-term care centers could lead to an increase in personal injury claims.

Some medical records lack progress notes and nursing flow sheets are incomplete, said attorney Heidi Villari. During the pandemic, she noticed claims coming from certain facilities around the same time. These claims seemed to come up during furloughs or staff reductions.

Injury claims that came up during the pandemic looked different. For example, when there were a lot fewer drivers on the road in the early days of the pandemic, there were fatigued drivers on the road.

Attorney Nancy Winkler is hoping health care facilities will be able to get ahead of the understaffing problem before people suffer harm. Staffing shortages could lead to:

  • Treatment delays
  • Negligent emergency room triage

Villari has started to receive reports of lack of supervision by nurses and patients not receiving medication when they are supposed to.

Sometimes you can tell negligence is occurring because of understaffing because the organization has harm-reduction policies. These policies are meant to prevent these types of negligence.

Another problem with understaffing is the risk of burnout for staff members. They must take on additional work because of understaffing and they could get burned out and patients could suffer the consequences.

Larger organizations may be better able to prevent staff burnout, but smaller organizations with fewer staff members may have a harder time avoiding staff burnout.

Another attorney who handles nursing malpractice litigation has seen more claims involving understaffing, partly because more people are aware of the problem. He has learned of more nursing home workers revealing they are taxed because of understaffing.

Fortunately, families have become more aware of signs of understaffed facilities because they see their loved ones not getting the care they need.

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