NYT Investigation Finds Thousands of Hidden Nursing Home Offenses

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A recent investigation found that many nursing homes are violating the rights of residents and putting them in danger but that they are able to appeal these decisions, which could lead to these violations being hidden from the public.

A shocking new investigation by the New York Times revealed extensive evidence that some of nursing homes’ most egregious rule violations, from infection control lapses to outright sexual assault, go undisclosed by the federal government even as state inspectors report them as putting residents in danger and breaching federal regulations. 

According to the report, “at least 2,700” such incidents were not weighed in Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ influential rating system for nursing homes, “which is designed to give people reliable information to evaluate the safety and quality of thousands of nursing homes.” Many of the violations were in fact “quashed during a secretive appeals process” or otherwise left out of the rating system due to a technical mishap. 

This is in spite of the fact that the violations were uncovered by state-level safety inspectors and even verified by their respective supervisors, sometimes resulting in “severe citations” indicating that the nursing homes placed their residents in danger. Both the appeals process and the “informal review” in a “special federal court inside the executive branch,” for cases when the appeal does not favor the nursing home, are reportedly opaque. Sometimes the court rules in favor of the citations, which somehow still don’t make it onto the nursing homes’ public disclosures. 

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Inspectors at a nursing home in Minnesota found that the facility failed to take proper Covid-19 precautions; nurses did not change their gear in between patients and they put sick patients with healthy patients, leading to the spread of the virus.

As the Times describes, nursing homes that receive citations from state inspectors can appeal the decision through an “informal dispute resolution process.” Even though the process is designed to take at most 60 days, “they sometimes drag on for more than a year.” This reportedly incentivizes nursing homes to take advantage of the process, prolonging the time it takes for negative information tor each the public’s eyes—or, if the appeal succeeds, either preventing the information from being disclosed at all, or minimizing the severity of the disclosure.

In one instance described by the Times, inspectors in Minnesota attributed the rapid spread of Covid-19 through a five-star nursing home facility to the staff’s failure to exercise “basic precautions.” They found that the nursing home wasn’t conducting staff screenings for symptoms of the disease and that staffers “weren’t removing protective gear after they left a sick person’s room.” They even found that the facility transferred a resident with Covid-19 symptoms into a room with a resident without them. “Both eventually tested positive for the virus,” the Times reported.

In their findings, the Minnesota inspectors stated that the nursing home “placed its residents in immediate jeopardy” and ordered it to develop a plan of correction. Instead, the nursing home appealed the ruling. As of the Times’ report’s publication, it’s still waiting for a decision, and the citation remains undisclosed to the public. 

More information on the procedural tools nursing homes use to conceal potentially life-threatening rule violations from the public is available via the New York Times.

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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