How Nursing Homes Get Away with Hiding Abuses from the Public

How Nursing Homes Get Away with Hiding Abuses from the Public

The decision to place a loved one in a nursing home can be agonizing. Horror stories abound, so you’ve likely conducted extensive research to find the best nursing home available. Unfortunately, the New York Times recently published a horrifying investigative report that reveals how highly rated nursing homes are duping the public. Despite their four- and five-star reviews, they’re endangering patients and violating federal regulations. How can this happen?

Despite numerous, dangerous incidents, reports are hidden

The Times reported more than 2,700 dangerous incidents were “not factored into the rating system run by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or C.M.S., which is designed to provide families with reliable information to evaluate the safety and quality of thousands of nursing homes.” Despite state investigative agencies verifying the submitted incident reports, they were hidden from the public during the appeals process.

When nursing homes are accused of negative incidents, they are allowed to appeal the incident reports.  Incident reports can range from workers failing to wash their hands, to sexual assault or other abuses.  To make matters even worse, the appeals process is conducted almost entirely in secret.  If a nursing home does not obtain their desired outcome from the informal appeals process, they can appeal to a “special federal court inside the executive branch. That process, too, is hidden from the public.”

Even if a citation is upheld, there’s no guarantee it will make it onto the Medicare Care Compare ratings website. As a result, families are not privy to all of the pertinent information they need to make an informed decision, and thus may be placing their loved ones in harm’s way.

A vested interest in maintaining a high rating

The Times wrote that “[b]ecause of the weight that people place on the star ratings, researchers have found a connection between better inspection results and greater profits.” In other words, four- and five-star rated homes are a lot more profitable than three-star and below homes. It quite literally pays to bury negative incident reports.

The investigation revealed from 2017 to 2019 more than 2,000 five-star facilities were written up at least once for not following infection control precautions such as not washing hands. Yet these incidents had no effect on the home’s rating. At 40 other five-star nursing homes, inspectors ruled sexual abuse “did not constitute actual harm or put residents in immediate jeopardy.”

This report underscores the need to monitor your loved ones’ care. If you suspect your elderly relative is a victim of nursing home abuse, don’t hesitate to call the attorneys at Dworken & Bernstein today.

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