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Pennsylvania Nursing Homes Face More Fines in 2017 Than In Past 3 Years Combined

The Pennsylvania Department of Health has been cracking down on nursing homes in the state, issuing $800,000 in fines and sanctions for violating patient care standards. Pennsylvania nursing homes have been under a microscope after the state’s attorney general filed a lawsuit alleging poor care against Golden Living Centers, one of the largest nursing home chains in the country.  The lawsuit was ultimately dismissed, but revealed that the Pennsylvania Department of Public Health had been rarely sanctioning nursing homes over violations, including those that put residents in immediate jeopardy.

The increase in deficiencies and fines is also said to be due to the fact that state has reinstated mandated anonymous reporting. Anonymous mandated reporting requires that anyone in a mandated reporter position (typically CNAs, physicians, nurses, administrators and pharmacists) should report patient care violations of any kind.

Pennsylvania newspaper Reading Eagle quotes Lori Smetanka, executive director of the National Consumer Voice, as saying “In 2014, state investigators categorized seven deficiencies as having caused actual resident harm. Fast forward to this year, that number in the first six months of 2017 was 88.”It doesn’t naturally go up on its own. You cannot say that care significantly changed in those six months. Obviously, something else spurred that on.”

Some nursing homes and nursing home industry groups feel that they’re being punished as a result of the fallout from the (failed) Golden Living Centers lawsuit. Elder care advocates are thankful that the PA Department of Public Health has stepped up investigation and enforcement of fines, but many are critical of the long term sustainability of increased surveillance. It’s a costly endeavor to continue random visits of nursing homes and to keep them on a watch list until they work to resolve deficiencies. Only time will tell if the increased fines will actually create long term improvement in Pennsylvania’s nursing homes.

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