BAY AREA: Nursing Homes Rife with Violations
Only 6% of Bay Area nursing homes that serve Medicare and Medi-Cal patients complied fully or substantially with federal quality standards for patient care from Sept. 1997 to Jan. 2000, according to a report released yesterday by the federal Committee on Government Reform. Nine members of Congress requested the federal review, which found that more than one-third of the region's 288 nursing homes racked up violations resulting in harm to residents or exposing patients to potentially fatal or serious injury. Of the 270 facilities cited for violations, 112 had infractions linked to "actual harm to residents," and seven facilities reported violations that caused serious injury or death. The most frequently noted violations included failure to treat pressure sores and failure to prevent accidents. Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Palo Alto), who was among those that requested the review, said: "Nursing homes face a crisis of care. State and federal authorities must ensure that with funding comes accountability." Nursing home reform advocate Pat McGinnis said she is never surprised by "what goes on at nursing homes," but added that she was astonished at the "high rate of violations in the Bay area, given that the highest (federal and state funding) rates are paid here, staffs are paid more here and we have the lowest staff turnover." She noted: "You'd think (compliance) would be a little bit better" (Skipitares, San Jose Mercury News, 6/9).
Lawmakers requested the federal review in anticipation of a reform measure introduced yesterday by Rep. Pete Stark (D- Hayward) and other California representatives. The "Nursing Home Staffing Accountability and Training Improvement Act" would make skilled nursing care facilities more accountable for maintaining adequate staffing levels and would mandate periodic audits of nursing homes that receive Medicaid funds. Additionally, the measure would provide for a federal government study to recommend ways to improve training for certified nurses aides. Noting that California is one of the best states for nursing home regulation, Stark said: "Somehow we've dropped some of these hospitals through the cracks. If this is as good as it gets, we could have real trouble in the rest of the country" (Ginsburg, San Francisco Examiner, 6/8).