Governor Cuomo’s administration has approved an $850 Million nursing home settlement, to be divided between New York State’s 600 nursing facilities. This would be welcome news if the money was to be allocated for additional staffing or services for the residents. Unfortunately, however, there do not seem to be any pre-requisites or mandates regarding how the money must be spent. This will allow less scrupulous owners to line their pockets.
The funds are being provided to all NY nursing homes despite federal regulators’ findings that 2/3 of the state’s facilities are below average. The NBC I-Team analysis found that more than 230 of the 600 homes set to receive part of the settlement have inspection ratings of one and two stars out of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Five-Star Quality Rating System. Richard Mallot, Executive Director of the long Term Community Coalition, questioned why the state would give some of the country’s worst nursing home facilities money, suggesting that money should be taken away from these facilities.
A resident of The Riverside Premier Rehabilitation & Healing Center (Riverside) was hospitalized due to severe dehydration and malnutrition, almost resulting in kidney failure; the resident’s family said the state should withhold the money until the facility enhances their quality of care. Riverside did not notify the family of how serious her condition was although they were aware that the patient’s ability to chew and swallow was severely diminished due her dementia and seizures. The hospital she was taken to questioned how someone could come from a facility in that condition.
Riverside has a two-star rating from CMS, the second lowest rating on their scale. Inspection records show the facility received the lowest staff rating possible, noting that registered nurses spend only 25 mins a day with each resident, which is less than half of the national average of hours per resident per day. The facility declined comment on their inspection rating, however Clyne did note that federal surveys look at facilities past results. Clyne stated that a facility may be rated two-star due to a bad survey and can be listed as a two-star facility until a better survey comes in, although practices and retraining of staff may have occurred.
Governor Cuomo’s referred the I-Team’s request for comment to James Plastiras, a spokesman for the New York State Department of Health (DOH). Plastiras stated that this agreement will not hinder the state from rigorously enforcing state and federal standards that ensure nursing home resident’s safety. He also stated that the additional income will provide nursing homes greater stability which will allow them to make strategic investments that will maintain and enhance resident care.