A 2020 report by the Government Accountability Office, a federal watchdog, found that 92% of nursing homes received citations for deficient infection prevention and control practices between 2013 and 2020, and that roughly 50% of these were found to have “persistent problems.” According to the GAO’s survey of more than 16,000 nursing homes, 13,299 were cited for an infection prevention and control issue “in one or more years.” Only 2,967, meanwhile, received no citations for infection prevention and control deficiencies.
After the emergence of the novel coronavirus in 2019, the GAO was tasked to look at how effectively the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services conducted oversight of infection prevention and control protocols in the nation’s nursing homes, which house approximately 1.4 million people. The GAO went about its review by analyzing both CMS guidance and its nursing home deficiency data, as assembled by surveyors in 50 states as well as Washington, DC. It specifically looked at data gathered in the five-year period between 2013 and 2017.
According to the GAO’s findings, infection prevention and control deficiencies “were the most common type of deficiency cited in surveyed nursing homes, with most nursing homes having an infection prevention and control deficiency cited in one or more years from 2013 through 2017.” It additionally found that in each individual year during that period, approximately 40% of nursing homes received infection control citations, a trend that “continued in 2018 and 2019,” per data it examined for those years. Approximately 48% of nursing homes with infection control citations—that is, 6,427 facilities—had citations for such “in multiple consecutive years.” According to the GAO, “This is an indicator of persistent problems at these nursing homes.”
Despite the high number of infection citations, the GAO found that roughly 99% of the deficiencies between 2013 and 2017 were identified as “not severe, meaning the surveyor determined that residents were not harmed.” Furthermore, it was rare that officials rarely responded to the deficiencies with enforcement actions: between 2013 and 2017, only one percent of non-severe deficiencies resulted in enforcement actions by CMS. Though the GAO did not offer any recommendations based on its findings, it said it plans to “examine CMS guidance and oversight of infection prevention and control in a future GAO report, including the classification of infection prevention and control deficiencies.”
More information on the infection prevention and control deficiencies in nursing homes is available via the Government Accountability Office.
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.