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Nursing Home Abuse Intensifies Federal Oversight

A Congressional committee is slated to hold a hearing to examine emerging patterns of nursing home abuse, neglect and general substandard care revealed recently by government regulators and media outlets.

According to McKnights Long-Term Care News, lawmakers want to determine whether the Centers or Medicare & Medicaid Services has fallen short in its responsibility to manage safety at nursing homes throughout the country.

The subcommittee chairman on Oversight and Investigations for the U.S. House of Representatives pointed out there have been numerous reports in recent months detailing “horrific” cases of nursing home abuse, neglect and other patient harm occurring in nursing homes in recent years. Specifically, he highlighted the Florida nursing home negligence case in Hollywood Hills wherein more than a dozen residents died following a hurricane last year after the nursing home failed to obtain swift assistance when the air conditioning system broke down and residents suffered numerous heat-related illnesses. There was an operational hospital directly across the street.

The sub-committee chair said these and other incidents have raised serious questions about whether CMS is adequately fulfilling its responsibility to make certain care standards are met, particularly for the most vulnerable elderly residents – particularly those with disabling conditions like Alzheimer’s disease.

The hearing is expected to include testimony from the Office of the Inspector General and the Government Accountability Office. The latter recently began pursuit of an investigation into standards (or rather, lack thereof) of nursing home staffing standards, according to The New York Times and Kaiser Health News, which underscored the severity of the issue in a recent high-profile joint report.

Part of the reason staffing levels are so critical is because when nurses and other caretakers are are overtired, they may be more prone to making errors or overlooking problems they might otherwise notice. These might include things like medication errors, which can be especially dangerous or even deadly.

Furthermore, staffers who exhausted are more likely to take their frustrations out on their patients, making borderline emotionally abusive comments that may ultimately lead to physical abuse.

The OIG released a statement indicating it plans to begin enhancing its focus on staffing information submitted by providers through payroll systems. This is an important development because previously this information was self-reported. As our West Palm Beach nursing home abuse attorneys well know, the staffing levels reported did not always align with the reality of the situation and figures often turned out to be exaggerated.

The OIG has said it will be using that data to both incentivize better quality staffing levels higher than minimum mandates.

Congressional leaders last month wrote highly critical letters to the administrator of CMS, indicating nursing home staffing enforcement was woefully inadequate at the agency. The truth of the matter is, both nursing home residents and their family members need and deserve transparency about the centers wherein their loved ones will be staying.

Industry spokespersons responded to a Congressional inquiry by saying that while families do deserve accurate and timely information regarding care quality, but said payroll tracking was an unnecessary step. Congressional leaders, however, disagreed, pointing out that the system was created expressly with the purpose of correcting the long-standing problem of not properly reporting staffing levels in an effort to avoid federal ire.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights. Now serving Orlando, West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie and Fort Lauderdale.

Additional Resources:

House committee to hold hearing Thursday on nursing home safety and care quality, Sept. 4, 2018, By Marty Stempniak, McKnight’s Long-Term Care News

More Blog Entries:

Nursing Home Neglect Risk Higher With Fewer Staffers, Sept. 4, 2018, West Palm Beach Nursing Home Abuse Attorney Blog

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