More nursing homes are being cited for serious violations, says a USA Today investigation. Citations are issued by state agencies that investigate and license nursing home when they find examples of bad care. The increase in citations may result, the story states, from a drop in the level of care or increased pressure on regulators to correct dangerous conditions. From 2000 through 2006, 22% more citations were issued to nursing homes that placed patients in “immediate jeopardy,” according to records from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which regulates nursing homes.
Citation for “immediate jeopardy” are the most serious charges state agencies can issue and often follow cases in which patients develop severe pressure ulcers (bed sores, pressure sores, decubitus ulcers), fall and sustain fractures, are the victims of serious medication errors, become severely dehydrated, become malnourished or experience a severe unplanned weight loss, wander away (elope) from a facility and are seriously injured or die, are strangled or asphyxiate on restraints or bed rails, or are physically or sexually assaulted or abused. Nursing homes that expose patients to “immediate jeopardy” may have to pay fines and may be suspended from accepting new Medicaid patients, who typically are a major source of revenue. Read the article on nursing home citations.
An advocate for nursing home patients was quoted in the story as saying, “It doesn’t necessarily mean things are getting worse. It means we’re finding more of the problems.” He’s probably right. In the absence of more funding and more staff for the state agencies that survey nursing homes and inspect complaints about care, more “searching” inspections by these same state agencies is necessary. This probably comes as no surprise. If state agencies want to find more worms, but they don’t have the time or manpower to look under more rocks, they’ve got to look harder under those rocks they are able to lift. It works when you’re looking for worms . . . and bad nursing homes.
Robert W. Carter, Jr. is a Virginia attorney whose law practice is dedicated to protecting the rights of the victims of nursing home and assisted living neglect and abuse in Richmond, Roanoke, Norfolk, Lynchburg, Danville, Charlottesville, and across Virginia.