The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) have a watchlist for the poorest performing nursing homes. Known as special focus facilities, these places have given patients the wrong medications, have low numbers of registered nurses on staff, had incidents where staff have bullied or abused the patients, or the homes failed to report patient injuries to physicians and families. These nursing homes are subjected to more frequent inspection and must improve or risk losing their Medicare and Medicaid funding, something few can afford to do. Despite the increased scrutiny, analysis of federal health inspection data shows that after these homes make it off the watchlist, they often return to the same levels of poor patient care that got them there.
The data shows that 52 percent of the homes that were on the watchlist before 2014 and improved enough to lose their status as a special focus facility have since had patients that were harmed or put into serious jeopardy in the last three years. Homes with recurrences of patient harm are rarely put back onto the watchlist. Instead they are fined, the corporation that owns the home pays the fine, and business continues. Some homes continue to operate after receiving multiple penalties. More than a third of the nursing homes that made it off the watchlist before 2014 still only warrant a Medicare rating of one star out of five, the lowest rating possible.
Recent federal budget cuts resulted in the number of nursing homes under special focus dropping by nearly half since 2012. This year, regulators identified 435 homes that needed further examination of their patient care practices, but only 88 will be designated as special focus facilities because that is the total that the $2.6 million budget allows for. Since 2005, more than 900 facilities have spent time on the watchlist.
The Director for Public Policy at the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-term Care in Washington, Robyn Grant, points out that the average time period used to determine a facility’s improvements is too brief. A quarter of the nursing homes on the watchlist were off again in less than a year. They need only to pass two consecutive inspections without major violations or complaints that can be verified. Grant said, “The period of time is just not long enough for them to show that they can sustain improvement.”
Another problem for consumers is that often when nursing homes get into financial trouble, they are acquired by another healthcare corporation and the names of the facilities change, making it harder to track performance records. Rebranding also happens as a result of poor performance when nursing homes are interested in distancing themselves from their reputations.
Nursing homes should be a place where we can entrust and not worry about the care of our loved ones. If you know someone who has suffered injuries due to poor patient care in a nursing home, the experienced nursing home abuse lawyers in New Jersey at Davis & Brusca, LLC will fight on your behalf for justice and all entitled compensation. Call us today at 609-786-2540 or contact us online.