Nursing Home Deficiencies Are Often Missed According to Federal Report

A report released Thursday by the Government Accountability Office indicates that nursing home inspectors often fail to cite at least one serious deficiency which could pose a risk of actual harm or immediate jeopardy to residents.

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) oversee the effectiveness of state employees who conduct inspections of nursing homes to ensure compliance with federal regulations and standards. Federal surveyors in regional offices routinely evaluate the quality of state inspections by conducting comparative surveys shortly after the state inspectors visit the nursing home or by conducting observational surveys where they watch the state employees during their inspections.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) conducted an evaluation of the federal oversight by analyzing results of federal monitoring surveys and interviewing officials at CMS headquarters and regional offices.

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According to the GAO Nursing Home Report, federal comparative surveys between 2002 and 2007 found that about 15% of all state surveys missed at least one serious deficiency which was at the highest level of non-compliance. Nine states were found to have missed those serious nursing home deficiencies in 25% or more of the inspections, but seven states were found have no missed such deficiencies.

For deficiencies which were at the lowest level of non-compliance, where the problems posed a potential for more than minimal harm, the report indicates that approximately 70% of state surveys missed at least one deficiency. Only five states were found to have less than 40% of the state surveys miss less than one of the deficiencies at the lowest level.

Missing nursing home problems which federal inspectors were able to find is a serious concern to CMS, since they could threaten the health and lives of residents if the issues are not corrected. The most common nursing home deficiencies which were missed by state inspectors included issues which could cause malnutrition or dehydration, or result in decubitus ulcers, also known as bedsores or pressure sores.

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