Federal program misses problem nursing homes

Sep 27, 2009 By KEVIN FREKING , Associated Press Writer

(AP) -- A government program that brings extra scrutiny to poorly performing nursing homes leaves out hundreds of troubled facilities, investigators report.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services identifies up to 136 as "special focus facilities" subject to more frequent inspections because of their living conditions. In every state except for Alaska, there are between one and six such facilities. But investigators said four times as many homes, or 580, could be considered among the nation's worst.

The report from the Government Accountability Office does not identify the homes.

The chairman of the Senate Aging Committee said it indicated to him that the special focus is too limited. At the least, Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Wis., wants more explicit warnings about nursing homes as people study quality ratings on a Medicare Web site, Nursing Home Compare - http://www.medicare.gov/nhcompare

"If far more than 136 nursing homes boast the bleakest conditions, then perhaps we should consider expanding" the program, said Kohl, who requested the study with Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa.

The GAO said it made just that recommendation two years ago. Federal officials agreed with the concept, but said they didn't have the resources to do so.

The report being released Monday also suggests adjusting the methods used to identify the worst performing nursing homes. The home now under special attention are the worst performing in their state. But not all states are created equal when it comes to nursing home quality. Comparing the homes nationally would ensure that scarce resources go to inspecting the nursing homes that truly need the most attention, according to the report.

CMS officials told the GAO they disagreed with relying solely on a national comparison. The agency said it would consider an approach that allows for a national comparison to have more weight.

Some states have far more poorly performing nursing homes than are designated as special focus facilities. For example, Indiana had 52 nursing homes listed as among the worst performing, but only four are on the special list; California has 40 considered among the worst performing, but only four are on the list.

Ohio has five nursing homes on the special focus list but only three that investigators considered among the nation's worst.

Investigators also found that the worst-performing ones tend to be for-profit facilities affiliated with a chain of nursing homes. They are more likely to be a larger facility, averaging 102 residents, while other nursing homes not identified as among the worst had 89 residents on average.

Nationally, there are about 16,000 nursing homes. So the 580 homes that GAO describes as the worst-performing represents almost 4 percent of the nation's nursing homes.

Grassley urged policymakers and regulators to pay attention to the report, and use the findings to improve quality and better protect nursing home residents.

---

On the Net:

Government Accountability Office: http://www.gao.gov

Senate Special Committee on Aging: http://www.aging.senate.gov

©2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Explore further: Humiliation tops list of mistreatment toward med students

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Hispanics appear to face poorer quality nursing home care

Apr 10, 2009

Nursing homes serving primarily Hispanic residents provided poorer quality care compared to facilities whose patients were mostly white, according to Brown University research. Details were published recently in the Journal of ...

Pandemic flu: Most nursing homes don't have a plan

Jul 22, 2008

If an influenza pandemic hits the United States, acute care hospitals are likely to be overwhelmed. Nursing homes may then be expected to assist with the patient overflow, but a new study in the Journal of the American Me ...

1 in 4 nursing home residents carry MRSA

Jun 04, 2009

MRSA is a major problem in nursing homes with one in four residents carrying the bacteria, a study by Queen's University Belfast and Antrim Area Hospital has found.

Nursing homes a popular option in Taiwan

Jul 24, 2008

Dr Szu-Yao (Zoe) Wang, who recently completed her PhD with UQ's School of Nursing, found that in Taiwan, where the culture dictates that children should care for their parents, aged-care facilities are becoming more popular.

Recommended for you

Humiliation tops list of mistreatment toward med students

2 hours ago

Each year thousands of students enroll in medical schools across the country. But just how many feel they've been disrespected, publicly humiliated, ridiculed or even harassed by their superiors at some point during their ...

Surrogate offers clues into man with 16 babies

11 hours ago

When the young Thai woman saw an online ad seeking surrogate mothers, it seemed like a life-altering deal: $10,000 to help a foreign couple that wanted a child but couldn't conceive.

Nurses go on strike in Ebola-hit Liberia

11 hours ago

Nurses at Liberia's largest hospital went on strike on Monday, demanding better pay and equipment to protect them against a deadly Ebola epidemic which has killed hundreds in the west African nation.

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge arrives in North Korea

Aug 31, 2014

It's pretty hard to find a novel way to do the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge by now, but two-time Grammy-winning rapper Pras Michel, a founding member of the Fugees, has done it—getting his dousing in the center ...

Cold cash just keeps washing in from ALS challenge

Aug 28, 2014

In the couple of hours it took an official from the ALS Association to return a reporter's call for comment, the group's ubiquitous "ice bucket challenge" had brought in a few million more dollars.

User comments : 0