It can be a tremendous source of worry, putting family members into nursing homes and depending on staff to care for them appropriately. Though we may want to care for our loved ones ourselves, practicalities can get in the way and force many to rely on the skill and kindness of strangers. We hope that those responsible for providing such care take their jobs seriously and we depend on regulators and other authorities to do their jobs of policing the caregivers. If the authorities fall down on their job, chances are much higher that the caregivers will too.
That’s what a recent article in the New York Times appeared to indicate, much to the concern of all those with family members in nursing care. The article showed that despite the attention paid by regulators to certain problem nursing homes, harm continued to befall residents and little real consequences resulted. The article dealt specifically with nursing homes labeled “special focus”, meaning they are given extra attention by regulators after having been identified as problem facilities due to the rates of patient injury.
Special focus is seen in the nursing home world as one of the most intense levels of scrutiny that exists. If a nursing facility is placed under special focus, it risks losing out on millions of dollars in reimbursements, funds that are crucial for staying in business. Specifically, special focus means that facilities must fix problems with care and be subjected to increased inspections or risk losing federal funding by Medicare and Medicaid. Without this money, most nursing homes would almost assuredly go out of business.
Despite the seriousness of the categorization, it appears that the extra scrutiny isn’t paying off for patients. According to reporters, of the 528 nursing homes that were at one time on special focus status before 2014 and have since graduated out such strict scrutiny, 52 percent have since been found to harm patients. That means that the majority of formerly special focus nursing homes that are still in business continue to inflict harm on residents, despite the attention by regulators.
These facilities are spread across the country, with 46 states being home to at least one home. The facilities stand accused of a range of activities, including giving the wrong medications to patients, failing to protect them from abuse or neglect and failing to inform families about injuries suffered. In each case, these misdeeds occur after regulators have signed off on their supposedly improved levels of performance. Even more alarming, despite the repeated infractions, nursing homes are only very rarely denied funding under Medicare and Medicaid, meaning the penalties for continued abuse and neglect are essentially meaningless, something that can lead to dire consequences for unsuspecting patients.
If you have questions about a medical malpractice or nursing home matter, please contact the Mississippi personal injury attorneys and medical malpractice attorneys at Kilpatrick & Philley toll free at (601) 856-7800.