New Law Requires Nursing Homes to Handle Patients Safely

A new law in New Jersey called the "Safe Patient Handling Practices Act" requires nursing homes to establish safety procedures that will keep patients and staff safe during transfers.  The law requires nursing homes to develop plans to assess patients for transfer aids like mechanical lifts (Hoyer lift, Vanderlift, Sabrina, Stella, Ergostand, Voyager), purchase lifts and other transfer aids, ensure lifts and transfer aids will be available and used throughout their facilities, train staff, and distribute information to educate patients and their families.  The law also forbids a nursing home from retaliating against an employee who refuses to transfer a patient due to concerns about safety.  Read more about the new law on safe transfers.   

I think it's great that New Jersey is directing attention to the problem of falls in nursing homes during transfers.  Falls involving the elderly can be catastrophic.  I've handled too many cases in Virginia in which a fall from a mechanical lift results in a blow to the head, a subdural hematoma (bleeding within the skull), increasing pressure on the brain as blood accumulates, a determination the hematoma is inoperable because of age or health or long-standing anticoagulant (Coumadin or Warfarin) use, and rapid death.  For elderly patients, falls that result in hip fractures increase dramatically the risk of dying within six months and one year of the fracture.

Things must really have been bad, though, for New Jersey to enact a law that "reminds" nursing homes to protect patients in the very same ways that federal nursing home laws and regulations have required for decades.  OBRA '87 created a comprehensive set of federal rules for all nursing homes to follow, including rules for avoiding falls and using assistive devices.  New Jersey nursing homes either had ignored their duties under OBRA '87 or forgot them -- in which case the "You're Losing Your Nursing Home License Because You're A Threat to Patient Safety Act" would have been a better solution to the problem.

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