Nursing Home Inspections: What Are State Regulators Evaluating?
Picking the right nursing home is one the most important decisions a child can make for an aging parent. Not only is it important to assess a facility’s ability to provide the care your loved one needs, it is also necessary to investigate the history of the home for regulatory violations, staff misconduct and abuse of residents. Nursing home abuse is a real and dangerous problem that is prevalent nationwide. A report compiled by the National Center on Elder Abuse found that 50 percent of nursing home staff admitted to mistreatment of residents in the previous year, and in a study involving 2,000 nursing home residents, 44 percent claimed they were abused and 95 percent experienced or observed neglect by caregivers. The situation among Miami’s long-term care facilities is, unfortunately, not any better, with one in five on the state’s watch list for inadequate staffing and/or conditions. Information about a home’s presence on the state’s watch list is not widely publicized, so family members must be diligent about finding the status of a given nursing home. In light of the large number of homes with problems, an overview of what state licensing regulators evaluate during nursing home inspections and the possible consequences of noncompliance will follow below so consumers may understand what the presence of a facility’s name on the watch list really means.
Components of an Evaluation
Florida law requires an evaluation of every nursing home at least once every 15 months. These inspections are not announced and last from three to four days. Inspections may be more frequent for facilities with problems or complaints of regulatory violations. If a facility is out of compliance with a regulatory requirement, a deficiency score is assigned to each violation based on severity and how widespread it is. The more serious the violation the greater the number of points assessed. The total score assigned to a facility is based on the number of deficiencies found over the previous 30 months, which usually encompasses two inspections.
Some of the areas evaluated include:
- the number and qualifications of all personnel responsible for care giving to residents;
- sanitary conditions within and around the nursing home (specifically, the water supply, sewage disposal, food handling and general hygiene;
- the equipment needed to maintain the health and welfare of the residents; and
- the quality and adequacy of the care, treatment and maintenance of the residents.
The possible penalties a facility may receive is dependent upon the type of deficiency found by an inspector. Class I deficiencies are conditions that endanger the life and safety of residents and must be corrected immediately. Homes with these types of deficiencies are subject to fines of $10,000 for isolated incidents, $12,500 if there is a pattern of deficiencies, or $15,000 for systemic deficiencies. Class II deficiencies compromise a resident’s ability to reach his/her highest level of wellbeing and incur fines of $2,500, $5,000 or $7,500, depending on frequency and scope. Fines for category I or II deficiencies are levied regardless of any corrective action taken. Finally, a class III deficiency relates to a condition that has the potential to compromise a resident’s wellbeing and includes a timeframe for correction. If the facility fixes a class III deficiency within the specified timeframe, it can avoid any applicable fines.
In addition to fines, a nursing home’s license status can be downgraded to conditional if there are categories I or II deficiencies or uncorrected category III deficiencies. If the deficiencies are not addressed, a facility could face a suspension or revocation of its license to operate.
Ask for Legal Help
If you know or suspect a loved one suffered abuse as a resident of a nursing home, talking to an lawyer familiar with this issue will allow you to become informed about your legal options and hold the facility accountable. The Miami law firm of Pita Weber & Del Prado wants to help you hold these facilities responsible. Contact us to schedule a free consultation.