Are Nursing Home Regulators Doing Enough to Stop Pressure Sores?


A recent report found that over 90,000 nursing home patients across the country are suffering from pressure ulcers and local health departments are not issuing citations for staff failing to prevent and care for these open sores that could potentially be harmful to patients.

A new report by the Long Term Community Care Coalition reveals that nearly one in ten nursing home residents have unhealed pressure ulcers. According to data analyzed by the organization, 7.92% of nursing home residents in the United States, or approximately 92,000 people, are suffering from unhealed pressure ulcers. The LTCCC suggests that this figure is “likely a significant undercount, since studies have found that many nursing homes under-report these data.”

For context, federal safety code governing nursing homes requires facilities to ensure residents do not develop pressure ulcers unless they are medically unavoidable. The code also requires nursing homes to do everything possible to promote the healing of pressure ulcers and prevent the development of new ulcers. Nursing homes who fail to comply with this citation can be cited or even fined by their local health departments. 

Even though state authorities are empowered to cite nursing homes over untreated pressure ulcers, the LTCC found that “states cite nursing homes the equivalent of less than 3% of the time that a resident has a pressure ulcer.” Sometimes states do issue citations, but classify the pressure ulcers as posing “no harm” to the residents. The report describes one particular instance in which a Delaware nursing home was cited over a resident who had a stage III pressure ulcer—that is, “an open, sunken hole”—and who care staff failed to turn over or reposition. Although a state surveyor found that the nursing home “violated standard recommended interventions,” it nonetheless classified the failure as no-harm.

According to the LTCCC’s analysis, state health departments classify pressure ulcer citations as causing harm to residents “23% of the time.” Some regions, like Maine and Washington, DC, recorded no harm-causing pressure ulcer citations in the three year period covered by the analysis. Others, like New Jersey, only classified a single pressure citation as causing harm to the resident. In the case of New Jersey, the LTCCC found, that constituted only 3% of cited pressure ulcers as harmful to nursing home residents.

The LTCCC’s analysis of pressure ulcer citations in nursing homes is available here. 

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Thomas L. Gallivan, PLLC work diligently to protect the rights of nursing home residents.  Please contact us to discuss in the event you have a potential case involving neglect or abuse.

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