Nursing Home Inspection Backlog Threatens the Safety of over a Million Residents

Federal law requires nursing home inspections to be conducted at least every 15 months to uphold care standards and help combat nursing home malpractice and regretful circumstances that would necessitate the involvement of a wrongful death attorney. But, post pandemic, nearly a third of the nation’s nursing homes are dangerously overdue for inspections.

Nearly 4,500 of America’s more than 15,000 nursing homes have been reported as behind in inspections, leaving about 1.1 million vulnerable nursing home residents open to nursing home malpractice, a Newsweek article says.

Citing federal data, the article explains that the inspection backlog began at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, when annual inspections were put on hold to protect residents from potential exposure to COVID-19. Even when the restrictions against inspections were relaxed in August of that year, the backlog continued. By November 2021, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) told health departments to fully resume inspections, especially for those facilities facing serious complaints of nursing home malpractice. But by the end of 2022, only 9,400 inspections occurred nationally, compared with 14,600 in 2019. Health Departments claim a dearth of surveyors is the cause of inspection delays.

In the meantime, serious nursing home malpractice complaints have escalated, demanding the immediate attention of health surveyors, who are federally required to investigate grievous allegations within days of the complaints. While investigating nursing home malpractice allegations made by residents or their families is important and necessary, having these inspections take the place of annual exams—which are intended to enforce quality standards and which serve residents and families incapable of lodging complaints—leaves a large portion of a vulnerable population underserved, says Newsweek.

Lack of inspections furthermore impacts the federal Five-Star Quality Rating System, which depends on inspection results for accurate ratings and upon which consumers rely to choose homes for themselves or their loved ones that will deliver quality care rather than subject them to nursing home malpractice. On a monthly basis, nursing homes are given a rating from one to five stars (better-performing facilities get more stars) from CMS based on the following metrics:

  • Health inspections: Ratings are derived from deficiencies discovered during the three most recent annual inspections, and also from any substantiated allegations of nursing home malpractice
  • Staffing: Using quarterly payroll data, nursing homes are rated for their staffing levels and ability to retain workers
  • Quality measures: Nursing homes are rated for care and outcomes regarding such measures as hospitalizations, bedsores, and COVID-19 vaccinations.

The Newsweek article reported that certain American nursing homes cited for abuse and nursing home malpractice have not been subjected to a thorough annual inspection in years. Egregious instances of nursing home malpractice were determined to have occurred in one Idaho (Prestige Care and Rehabilitation ) and one Maryland (Bel Pre Healthcare Center) facility. Due to an extreme lack of surveyors, Idaho will likely be behind in inspections for years; Maryland meanwhile has the worst backlog in the nation: almost 85 percent of homes are overdue. The instances of nursing home neglect in the aforementioned two homes include the following incidents discovered through complaint-driven inspections:

  • At Prestige Care, staff did not protect a female resident from resident-on-resident sexual abuse when she was groped by a male resident. That man also watched another resident undress.
  • Also at Prestige Care, a resident was sent to the emergency room twice in a matter of days to treat maggot-infested foot wounds that had grown deep enough to reveal tendons.
  • At Bel Pre Healthcare Center a nursing assistant seized a resident by the neck during an altercation.
  • Also at Bel Pre Healthcare Center, a resident was twice subjected to resident-on-resident sexual abuse by the same aggressor, in the form of being “sexually inappropriately touched.”

Your Dedicated Nursing Home Malpractice and Wrongful Death Attorney

As a nursing home malpractice and wrongful death attorney, Brian P. Murphy is committed to ensuring negligent Philadelphia/PA and NJ nursing homes are held responsible for nursing home abuse and neglect. Residents of Philadelphia/PA or NJ nursing homes have rights that are guaranteed under federal law, and they should be able to reside in their facilities secure in the knowledge that they will be safe and treated with dignity. With years of experience as a nursing home malpractice and wrongful death attorney, Brian Murphy fearlessly confronts deficient nursing homes and steadfastly pursues the successful resolution of his clients’ cases. Should you find yourself needing to contact a nursing home malpractice and wrongful death attorney, call Brian Murphy today to discuss your legal options.