NURSING HOME INSPECTORS: ARE THEY TOUGH ENOUGH?
In Virginia, nursing homes are inspected by The Office of Licensure and Certification (OLC), a division of the Virginia Department of Health. The OLC investigates complaints and allegations lodged against nursing facilities, hospitals, home care organization, hospice programs, managed care health insurance plans, outpatient surgical hospitals and clinical laboratories. All complaints are reviewed and prioritized and complainants are notified of the results.
There are more than 265 nursing facilities containing 33,965 beds located throughout Virginia. Nursing facilities are inspected every 2 years under state licensure and on an average of every 12 months under Medicare/Medicaid certification. That is a lot of work for a limited number of inspectors! Virginia has done a pretty good job of promptly investigating complaints against nursing homes. Not all states can say the same. A third of U.S. nursing homes have food sanitation problems, and nursing homes in California, Nevada, Delaware, West Virginia and Hawaii scored more bad marks on state inspections than in other states in 2004. The most serious problems – failures that cause actual harm to residents – were reported in Connecticut, Idaho, Kansas, South Carolina and Washington.
Charlene Harrington, a University of California San Francisco researcher and a national expert on nursing home deficiencies concludes that states are becoming less likely to cite homes for serious deficiencies. She points to increases in the number of residents with pressure sores or who are bedridden. “There is some evidence that some state agencies may be downgrading the severity ratings for deficiencies,” Harrington’s report said. Thirty states saw severity ratings for deficiencies decline in 2004 from the previous year, the report said, even as more total deficiencies were found in 2004 in all states except Mississippi, Oregon and Wyoming. Harrington’s report is interesting reading.