While many people try to take care of their parents as they age, some people are unable to do so for reasons of geography, finances, time management, or medical complexity. When this happens, many families trust nursing homes to deliver the care that we would deliver to our family members themselves. Sometimes, nursing homes fall short of these expectations and are placed under increased oversight. The only question is, does this increased oversight lead to an improvement in patient care?
The Story of Parkview Healthcare Center Nursing Home
Parkview Healthcare Center is one of the many prominent nursing homes and assisted living facilities in California. Unfortunately, the center also has a long history of delivering poor patient care, earning it a label as one of the country’s most dangerous nursing homes. Finally, the long track record of inadequate patient safety caught up with the center. In 2012, Parkview Healthcare Center was designated as one of the state’s “special focus facilities.” This designation, levied by the state’s department of public health, meaning that the nursing home was forced to fix many of the holes that had led to poor patient outcomes. Unfortunately, this nursing home is only one of many that have received the designation.
What is the Penalty?
Some people may be wondering what happens if these “special focus facilities” do not fix the problems in their patient care. For assisted living facilities that fail to fix the lapses in their patient care, they could be stripped of all of their Medicare and Medicaid funding. For those who don’t know, Medicare is health insurance for the elderly while Medicaid is health insurance for poor, underserved populations. Many of the country’s assisted living centers primarily serve the elderly, almost all of whom are on Medicare. Therefore, this insurance carrier represents a large percentage of the center’s income. Few nursing centers can afford to lose this insurance revenue, meaning that Parkview Healthcare Center was placed under fire from the government.
Parkview Improved, Temporarily
Because of the designation placed on the Parkview facility, they were placed under extremely strict oversight. It took the center about 15 months to improve its standards; however, it was eventually released from the “special focus facility” designation. Unfortunately, this improvement was only temporary. Just a few short months after the designation was lifted, a 74-year-old patient fell out of her wheelchair at the Parkview facility. The patient had lost the use of her legs after suffering a stroke. While the nursing center promised to attach a non-skid pad to her wheelchair, they did not. Unfortunately, the patient fell from her wheelchair two more times. The final time, she fractured her hip, a serious injury in an elderly individual. This violation drew a steep financial penalty for Parkview; however, it was one of only 10 fines the facility had suffered since having the designation lifted. Do these punishments and stricter forms of oversight work?
A Troubling Trend
Unfortunately, the story of Parkview Healthcare Center is far from unique. Prior to 2014, over 500 nursing centers have been given the special focus status and subsequently graduated from this designation. Of the ones that are still open, over half have harmed patients in some way in the past three years. This appears to suggest a trend that nursing homes revert back to their old ways after having the designation lifted. This creates a dangerous environment for patients, places a significant amount of stress on their families, and calls into question whether or not the increased oversight placed on these nursing facilities makes any difference in patient outcomes at all.
What Happens to Repeat Offenders?
Because there are many nursing care centers placed on the special focus list and subsequently taken off, many people are wondering what happens if they continue to fall short in the area of patient care. While it might be natural to assume that these homes would end up back on the line, few of these facilities do. Instead, they are subjected to multiple fines and warnings, similar to what the Parkview Healthcare Center has received. These homes are rarely if ever, denied their Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements. Therefore, there is little incentive for these homes to change their ways because the fines that they must pay pale in comparison to their revenue. This places patients in a dangerous situation.
A Shrinking List
Since 2012, the number of assisted living facilities placed on the watch list has been shrinking rapidly. While this might sound good on the surface, it does not mean that patient care is improving. Instead, this shrinking list reflects the fact that the federal budget for this list has been shrinking as well. This means that the department does not have the resources to adequately check up on all of the homes that have been guilty of poor patient care in the past. Instead of hiring more staff to do these checkups, the list has shrunk instead. This allows many nursing homes to operate under the radar, placing the lives of their patients at risk.
Why do Patients Suffer?
There are many potential reasons why the level of patient care continues to fall short in these assisted living homes. While a lack of oversight may be contributing to the problem, there is also a severe shortage of nurses operating in these facilities. Therefore, when families are looking at nursing facilities for their loved ones, they should always ask what the nurse to patient ratio is in these centers. The more nurses there are, the more care will be available for their loved one. Anyone who has had a family member injured or ill during a stay at such like facilities should contact personal injury lawyers at GOM Law to discuss their options. Nobody should ever have to suffer at the hands of someone who is supposed to take care of them.