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Nursing Homes on Federal Watch List Rarely Show Sustainable Improvement

Every month, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) update their list of nursing homes that have proven to be in dire need of improvement to avoid patient safety events and to hang on to funding from Medicare and Medicaid. The nursing homes, referred to as Special Focus Facilities (SFFs), have all been found to have higher than average numbers of safety violations or deficiencies, including actions that have the ability to cause immediate harm or death to residents. Facilities are only able to graduate from the SFF list by having a clean record during two consecutive inspection visits by CMS.

‘Graduation’ from SFF Not the Same Thing as Giving Better Care
In a report by Kaiser Health News, over half of the 528 facilities that graduated from the SFF list before 2014 have gone on to seriously harm and even kill patients. The report says that the same facilities still have nurse staffing levels at an average of 12% lower than typical resident to nurse ratios that many other nursing homes maintain, a significant difference in an industry where ratios are already at shockingly low levels.

Despite the intention of the list to encourage procedural care changes within America’s worst nursing homes, many seem to temporarily improve to pass CMS inspections, quickly falling back into old habits. According to CMS, only 16% of facilities who have been placed on the SFF list have ever lost federal funding. Even more worrisome is that due to 2012 federal budget cuts by then-President Obama, the number of Special Focus Facilities that are able to be tracked has been significantly reduced. There are 435 nursing homes that were identified as meriting a spot on the list, but only 88 were able to be classified as SFFs.

And finally, the report found that over 1/3 of the facilities on the list from before 2014 still had the lowest possible rating from Nursing Home Compare, the rating system used by CMS to give a picture of the overall quality of care provided by a facility.

Maggots in Feeding Tubes, Repeated Falls at Former Special Focus Facilities
In the report, some of the heartbreaking cases of neglect and abuse committed by Special Focus Facilities were detailed, including repeated falls by a resident at Parkview Healthcare Center in Bakersfield, California. The female resident had fallen once, causing state regulators to warn the facility to use a special non-slip pad in her chair. Parkview never followed through on their promise and allowed the same resident to fall twice more, breaking her hip.

A Golden Living Center in Pennsylvania spent 17 months on the SFF list and after being removed, settled 3 cases involving falls, along with being accused of allowing a patient’s feeding tube to become infested with maggots. In February, we discussed the sale of Golden Living Centers to Priority Health Care Group, a move which prompted many to suspect that the sale was only to appear as if they were attempting to make an improvement. Golden Living Centers is currently at the center of a lawsuit filed by the Pennsylvania Attorney General regarding rampant abuse and neglect at nursing homes in the state.

Several Illinois Nursing Homes on Safety Watch List
In early February, we shared the names of the Illinois nursing homes that were placed on the January list of Special Focus Facilities. At that time, 3 facilities were on the list. Since then, 1 has remained on the list and 2 more have been added. The January list had Timbercreek Rehab & Healthcare Center in Pekin, who has now been on the list for 8 full months. Its status is listed as ‘no improvement.’

Added since our last SFF post in January are Gardenview Manor in Danville, who has spent 2 months on the list, as well as Wentworth Rehab and HCC in Chicago, who was added in June.

We Can Help
The nursing home abuse attorneys of Levin & Perconti are recognized as leaders in the fight against elder abuse. The firm has secured settlements and verdicts in excess of $160 million for the victims and families of those who have suffered from nursing home abuse and neglect, including a $4.1 million jury verdict this month for the family of a woman who suffered a stroke after an Illinois nursing home erroneously stopped her blood thinning medication.

If you or a loved one have been the victim of nursing home abuse or neglect at Timbercreek Rehab & Healthcare Center, Gardenview Manor, Wentworth Rehab or any other facility, we encourage you to contact us for a free consultation.