NURSING HOMES: NOT PROVIDING PROPER CARE FOR PATIENTS
The elderly in "nursing homes are at far greater risk ofThis is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.
death from neglect than their loved ones imagine," this week's
Time magazine reports. The article examines neglect in U.S.
nursing homes, reporting that "[o]wing to the work of lawyers,
investigators and politicians who have begun examining the causes
of thousands of nursing home deaths across the U.S., the grim
details are emerging of an extensive, blood-chilling and for-
profit pattern of neglect." On Wednesday, the Senate Special
Committee on Aging will hold a briefing on malnutrition in
nursing homes. An analysis of data from California nursing homes
found that of 306,934 people who died in nursing homes between
1986 and 1993, "more than seven percent of them succumbed, at
least in part, to utter neglect -- lack of food or water,
untreated bedsores or other generally preventable ailments."
According to Time estimates, if these rates exist nationwide,
about 35,000 nursing home residents could be dying from
preventable, neglect-related causes each year.
NO CRIME GOES UNPUNISHED?
Although the federal government has the power to punish
nursing homes through fines or denial of federal funds, Time
reports that the government has often failed to follow through
with the recommendations of state inspectors. In the past year,
nearly 10,000 nursing homes had violations, and "many were
forwarded to federal officials with proposed punishments."
However, penalties were assessed in only 2% of the cases. State
inspectors recommended that 5,458 homes be prohibited from
receiving money for new patients. Federal officials reduced that
number to 156. And although state officials recommended that
2,935 homes be fined for violations, the federal government fined
only 228. Officials at the Health Care Financing Administration
said that the homes "have a right" to make improvements before
penalties are assessed. However, Charles Bailey, lawyer formerly
at HCFA, disagreed, stating, "Congress said to impose these
penalties and they're not" (Thompson/Graft/Gwynne, 10/27 issue).