Massachusetts Nursing Home Safety Problems Result in increased Oversight

Amid continuing concerns about safety problems at nursing homes throughout Massachusetts, the state intends to improve the oversight provided throughout the Commonwealth, with a new plan calling for surprise inspections, more stringent enforcement of fines, and tougher licensing reviews for new facilities. 

Last week, officials with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health released details of the overhaul plan following a number of complaints last year involving nursing home safety problems.

In 2015, Massachusetts received about 11,000 complaints of nursing home neglect and abuse involving its 400 nursing homes and 40,000 nursing home residents. The state is still struggling to address the complaint backlog from last year.

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The new plan calls for the creation of a Supportive Planning and Operations Team (SPOT), which would make surprise inspections and help retrain staff and management at the state’s most troubled facilities. The state hopes to pay for the one-year SPOT experiment by enforcing, and possibly increasing, fines for non-compliance with nursing home regulations.

Currently, the state is approved to fine facilities up to $50 per day for infractions, but that has rarely been enforced. The plan calls for more significant enforcement of the fines starting next month.

There is also the possibility that the fines could be raised, but that would require a state law, according to a story by the Boston Globe.

Currently, the state budget for this year allows for the hiring of only two additional inspectors.

By comparison, federal sanctions can be up to $10,000 per day for out-of-compliance nursing homes.

Under the new plan, the state would also create a new online system where consumers could more easily file complaints and look up detailed information on the state’s nursing homes.

The state would also take a closer look at new nursing home licenses, as well as sales and closures of existing facilities, state officials said. The state would look at criminal and financial backgrounds of potential new nursing home operators and their management companies.

A report issued in 2014 by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Office of Inspector General (DHHS-OIG) found that about a quarter of all U.S. nursing home residents experience adverse events and that about 11% are harmed by mistakes, most of which are preventable.


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