Last month, The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced that it was going to temporarily halt regular inspections to more than 15,300 nursing home facilities in order to put the primary focus on the current threat posed by the novel coronavirus. Routine inspections were put into place to help protect nursing home residents from dangerous conditions.
Nursing Home Facilities are Given the Authority to Temporarily Perform Their Own Inspections
Currently, facilities are authorized to perform their own inspections; however, based on the past track records at many nursing homes, this may put the already isolated and vulnerable nursing home residents at a greater risk. During the last two rounds of inspections, nearly 60% of the nursing homes were issued citations for failures in infection control. Breaches of this nature can lead to residents contracting the flu, pneumonia, and the coronavirus.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has said it will conduct targeted surveys of homes with residents who are fighting the virus in order to look for infection control threats and to respond to residents that may be in immediate danger. Individual states, which share oversight duties with the federal government, will also follow suit.
Nursing Home Residents May Suffer Due to the Halting of Formal Inspections
One of the main concerns revealed during the last round of inspections was that caretakers had not taken the necessary precautions to isolate residents during outbreaks of influenza. Other concerns included the failure to properly clean medical equipment, use protective masks, and the lack of using gloves while treating vulnerable patients.
It was also noted during inspections that nursing home residents were found to be suffering from severely infected wounds, nursing staff was found to have provided inadequate care by giving the residents the wrong medications, and it was also found that residents were routinely left alone without anyone on duty to care for them. Additionally, more than seven out of ten nursing homes were operating with staffing levels that were below the federal recommendations. These unacceptably low staffing levels are one of the leading causes of neglect and abuse in nursing home facilities.
Problems Already Resulting from the Lack of Formal Nursing Home Inspections
Records show that the decision to grant nursing home facilities the authority to perform their own inspections has already led to a drastic reduction in oversight. In fact, inspectors visited nearly 100 homes during the time period of March 23 through April 10 and found that nearly one in five of these nursing homes were not properly using personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks or gloves. During this same approximate period of time last year in 2019, inspectors carried out 925 routine surveys and found more than 6,000 violations for a variety of problems, including incorrect prescriptions, bedsores, and instances of patients with cognitive impairments leaving the facilities unauthorized.
According to a California health care expert, routine nursing home inspections are critical to detecting hazards and, subsequently, saving lives. The current order halting these inspections will likely have some negative consequences for nursing home residents and their loved ones.
About the Author
Attorney Steven Peck has been practicing law since 1981. A former successful business owner, Mr. Peck initially focused his legal career on business law. Within the first three years, after some colleagues and friend’s parents endured nursing home neglect and elder abuse, he continued his education to begin practicing elder law and nursing home abuse law.