Two U.S. Senators released a list of nearly 400 nursing home facilities nationwide that consistently provide poor care or have potentially serious safety problems that are typically hidden from the public, as increased pressure is being placed on federal regulatory agencies to provide better transparency for individuals and families.
In a press release issued this week, U.S. Senators Bob Casey and Pat Toomey, both of whom represent Pennsylvania, announced that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released a previously undisclosed list of under-performing nursing home facilities (PDF) last month, after the law makers called for the names of the facilities to be made public.
CMS is responsible for overseeing the Special Focus Facility program, which is designed to monitor nursing homes with consistent under-performing standards. Once a nursing home facility is flagged for consistent violations or nursing home neglect and abuse concerns, CMS adds them to the program.
The program requires extra inspections, additional oversight, and has the authority to close down the facility if improvements or standards are not met. The list of these nursing homes is made readily available to the public and is updated each month and new problematic facilities are recognized.
Although the names of the facilities in this program are made public, there is another internal list the agency keeps of approximately 400 nursing homes that are considered candidates for the program due to their history of care-related problems. This internal list is not made available to the public, potentially allowing families to choose an under performing nursing facility that the agency knew about, but did not disclose.
In March, Toomey and Casey advocated for CMS to release this internal list of the undisclosed nursing home facilities. CMS declined their original request in March. However, after additional efforts to have the lists released, CMS relented in early May.
“When a family makes the hard decision to seek nursing home services for a loved one, they deserve to know if a facility under consideration suffers from systemic shortcomings,” Senator Toomey said in the press release. “To date, CMS has arbitrarily excluded from public disclosure a subset of these underperforming nursing homes. Moving forward, I hope CMS will give the public this particular list, as well as all relevant information about nursing home quality.”
After reviewing the facilities, Casey and Toomey released this April 2019 list alongside a report with additional background and context (PDF) retrieved from the nursing homes. The senators indicate they have chosen to release this list to the public to provide transparency.
In addition to releasing the list to the Senators, CMS has also made a commitment to publicly release this list of under-performing facilities on a monthly basis so that families may consciously make an informed decision on when selecting a nursing home for their loved ones.
Earlier this year, a nine month VA nursing home neglect investigation by USA Today, indicated that instances of nursing home neglect and abuse occurred at more than half of all facilities during their inspections, and that there was often a lack of safety protocols to properly monitor and treat patients.
According to the information released from April through December 2018, 52 of 99 VA nursing homes inspected were found to contain one or more reports of actual harm or jeopardy to veterans across 25 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.
Of the 52 cited facilities, inspectors found 11 facilities where veteran safety was in “immediate jeopardy”, The inspections included reports of patients suffering from bed sores, veterans moaning in pain from not receiving adequate medication, and veterans being bathed in water temperatures reaching upward of 128 degrees. One facility in Lyons, New Jersey was cited for not having any functional call system for residents to request caregivers.