The past couple of years have been extremely difficult for those who work and live in nursing homes. Many state inspections throughout the country were placed on hold for a time. However, that’s no longer the case.
State inspections are key to discovering problems and ensuring that they’re fixed. However, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General, Georgia is next to last among all states in timely inspections.
The findings of the HHS report
The HHS report, released earlier this year, showed that 93% of nursing homes in our state had not undergone a required “standard survey” for 16 months or longer as of the end of May. Only Connecticut fared worse.
The numbers are not significantly better overall. Over 70% of nursing homes nationwide had been without a required inspection for that long. The federal government requires all facilities to undergo a thorough inspection at least every 15 months.
These inspections, which generally last around four days, are done to ensure that facilities are up to federal standards and can be recertified by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). As Georgia’s long-term care ombudsman noted, “The longer that facilities don’t have surveys, the more residents are at risk for abuse and neglect…. It’s easier for bad things to happen.’’
What’s being done to increase inspections?
It will take some time for things to get back up to speed. The Fiscal Year 2022 state budget includes over $12 million for trained inspectors. The Georgia Department of Community Health (DCH) is using outside vendors to reduce the backlog of nursing home inspections. It’s also “implementing recruitment and retention strategies” to fill the vacancies.
The head of the Georgia Council on Aging, says that the HHS report “shows that upgrades are urgent.’’ A report is due to Georgia lawmakers by the end of the year. She wants it to be made public “so advocates and families can see if the improvements are being made.”
Even in “normal” times, families can’t rely on government inspections to ensure that their loved ones in nursing homes are safe, healthy and well cared for. Unfortunately, it may require constant vigilance. If you believe your loved one has suffered harm, it’s wise to seek legal guidance.