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Pennsylvania's nursing homes get failing grade from national group

Morning Call - 6/12/2019

Jun. 12--With some of its facilities already under increased scrutiny, Pennsylvania's nursing homes have now received a failing grade from a national advocacy group.

Families for Better Care issued its report Monday, with the Keystone State the lowest-ranked in the Mid-Atlantic region, and the only state to fail in overall care.

The report card was based on eight criteria, including staffing levels, health inspections, and verified Ombudsman complaints.

Pennsylvania ranked 46th out of 50 states, down from 32nd in 2014, the year the last report was issued.

"This year's nursing home report card exposed an alarming trend that should serve as a wake-up call for us all," said Brian Lee, Families for Better Care's executive director. "Nursing home inspection ratings have soured."

The report comes a week after Pennsylvania'sU.S. senators released a previously undisclosed list of about 400 persistently poor-performing nursing homes.

The list, from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS, detailed nursing homes with documented problems whose names were not previously disclosed by the government.

Sixteen of the listed homes are in Pennsylvania. The closest to the Lehigh Valley is The Gardens at Stroud in East Stroudsburg. There are several in the Philadelphia area.

"When a family makes the hard decision to seek nursing home services for a loved one, they deserve to know if a facility under consideration suffers from systemic shortcomings," Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., said at the time.

The Pennsylvania Health Care Association said the new Families for Better Care report is based on 2017 data. The state received an 'F' in five of the eight categories, a 'D' in another, and (by grade alone) did not improve its rank in any one category. It received a 'B' in Professional Nursing Hours Per Resident, but fell from 14th to 16th. In Direct Care Staffing Above Average, in which it received an 'F' on the last report and this year's report, its rank jumped slightly from 44th to 42nd.

The report highlighted a number of other items regarding Pennsylvania's performance, including:

-- Dangerous conditions became 'more prevalent' as severe deficiencies swelled more than 80 percent since the last report card.

-- 95% of the state's nursing homes were cited with one or more deficiencies.

-- Nursing home residents received fewer than 2 hours and 21 minutes of direct care per day from caregivers.

This year's top nursing home states listed in the report were Hawaii, Delaware and Alaska while Texas, North Carolina, and Illinois were at the bottom of the list.

"Nursing home staffing levels must be ratcheted up if care is ever going to improve," said Lee. "Since nursing homes rely so heavily on federal and state reimbursements, it's incumbent upon us to pull up our bootstraps and find a way to inject much needed staffing currency as soon as possible."


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