A recent audit (report here) by the Pennsylvania Auditor General raises serious concerns about nursing home operation in Pennsylvania. The audit covered the period of January 1, 2014 through October 31, 2015. The report broke the key issues up into three areas of focus.
In the first (and most important) area of focus, the audit revealed that the Department of Health did not have sufficient policies and procedures to ensure that nursing homes provided the required 2.7 hours of direct patient care per day. The hours of direct patient care were often self-reported and not backed-up of adequate supporting documentation. In addition, the audit revealed that the minimum number of 2.7 hours might be too low.
The second area of focus deals with the Department of Health’s handling of complaints. The Department has a policy of disregarding anonymous complaint about nursing homes. The audit also found deficiencies in the Departments documentation and prioritization practices. These practices can lead to a mishandling or rejection of serious and urgent complaints.
The third area of focus deals with imposition of sanctions by the Department. The audit revealed that, in cases where the department administered education, rather than fines, to facilities that had severe violations, the decision making process was not adequately documented.
These findings should alarm anyone with a loved one in a nursing home. It is important to keep in mind that any legislation limiting the ability to bring private lawsuits against nursing homes will only make this problem worse. It is therefore important to strongly protect the rights of individuals to bring lawsuits, allowing them to recover adequate damages and perform their own investigations, when nursing home abuse occurs.