July 18, 2018

Central Mass. care centers staff at above-average levels

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Jewish Healthcare Center in Worcester is a standout for its high staffing levels. An analysis by Kaiser Health News found its staffing to be "much above average" compared to centers nationally.

When it comes to health care, Massachusetts is known as one of the more expensive states. But when it comes to staffing at health care and rehabilitation centers, the state is far above average, too.

Of the 68 care facilities in Central Massachusetts, 60 staff their facilities at or above national levels, according to an analysis of payroll records by Kaiser Health News at more than 14,000 facilities nationwide.

Of those 68 facilities, exactly half were rated as "above average" for staffing levels by Kaiser Health News. Another four were "much above average" and 21 were "average." Seven were "below average" and one was "much below average."

Kaiser Health News, which reported its findings earlier this month, said Medicare only recently began gathering and publishing payroll records as required under the Affordable Care Act. Before then, Medicare was relying on each facility's own unverified reports, the organization said.

Kaiser Health News said the new payroll records show previous rating systems for facilities often exaggerated staffing levels and rarely indicated low staffing levels that were actually more common. The worst staffing levels were generally shown to be at facilities in the Midwest and South, particularly Texas, Georgia, Indiana and Ohio. Massachusetts and much of the Northeast typically had better staffing levels.

In Central Massachusetts, staffing levels were at or above national averages at a large majority of facilities.

Four facilities scored in Kaiser Health News' highest staffing category: Jewish Health Care Center in Worcester, Whittier Rehabilitation Hospital in Westborough, Bethany Health Care Center in Framingham, and TCU at Webster in Webster.

Seven scored below average: Sterling Village in Sterling, Gardner Rehabilitation & Nursing Center, Fitchburg Gardens for Nursing and Rehabilitation, Marlborough Hills Rehabilitation & Health Care Center, Brookside Healthcare & Rehabilitation Center in Webster, Webster Manor Rehabilitation and Health Care Center, and Southbridge Rehabilitation and Health Care Center.

One facility, Franklin Health and Rehabilitation Center in Franklin, scored in Kaiser's lowest staffing category, "much below average."

A spokeswoman for Sterling Village called data for the facility an error from human resources reporting. Webster Manor bases its staffing on acuity and patient numbers, said Tim Brown, the director of marketing and communications at Athena Healthcare, which manages the facility.

"I would refer patients to the (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) for the most recent data on our staffing levels," Brown said.

Representatives for the other below-average facilities did not return messages seeking comment.

A list of Central Massachusetts care facilities, and their staffing levels:

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