A new report by the Long-Term Community Care Coalition provides disconcerting revelations about the state of nursing home oversight in the US. According to the LTCCC’s analysis of nursing home citations issued from 2017 to 2020, the data suggests that regulators seldom classify deficient infection control practices as harmful to residents.
When state and regional inspectors issue citations to nursing homes for failure to comply with federal health and safety codes, they classify the scope of the deficiency as causing harm to residents, putting residents in jeopardy, or not causing harm or putting residents in jeopardy. As the LTCCC notes, when inspectors do not identify a nursing home as harming residents or putting them in jeopardy, those nursing homes are “unlikely to face any penalty.” This can result in the nursing home’s failure to meaningfully address the systems that led to the deficiency in the first place.
The LTCCC notes that infection control deficiencies are a particularly widespread issue in nursing home facilities, with CDC data suggesting that “1 to 3 million serious infections occur every year in nursing homes and assisted living facilities and as many as 388,000 residents die each year due to infections.” Pre-pandemic data suggested that the majority of nursing homes in the US had received citations for substandard infection prevention and control practices, with half of that 82% receiving multiple citations over the years. In 2016, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services established a federal requirement for nursing homes to maintain a part-time or full-time infection prevention specialist. CMS head Seema Verma said in 2020 that deficient infection control practices played a role in the pandemic’s devastating affect on nursing homes.
According to the LTCCC’s analysis, 7.8% of deficiencies cited from 2017 to 2020 concerned infection control practices, resulting in an average of 5.7 citations per 1,000 residents. There were a total of 22,554 infection control deficiencies identified in that period, of which 3.2% were classified “as causing harm or putting any residents in immediate jeopardy.” The trend did not change during the pandemic, with 93.5% of infection control deficiencies identified in 2020 classified as not causing harm or putting residents in jeopardy. The state with the lowest infection control citation rate, according to the LTCCC’s analysis, was New York.
For more information about potentially lax enforcement of infection control in US nursing homes, the LTCCC’s report 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.