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A review of the nation’s nursing home inspection reports by the Congressional Government Accountability Office (GAO) lists Alabama among nine states with the worst records of nursing home inspection accuracy, saying inspectors missed serious problems in more than 25 percent of all inspections from 2002-2007. The report said most states still fared dismally, missing at least one serious deficiency in 15 percent of all inspections.

Results of the report were published in the New York Times May 15, which says the study “reveals a widespread ‘understatement of deficiencies’ including malnutrition, severe bedsores, overuse of prescription medications, and nursing home resident abuse.” It goes on to say that “there are 16,400 nursing homes with more than 1.5 million residents nationwide. Of these, about one-fifth are cited for serious deficiencies each year.”

The study was requested by Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis., Chairman, Senate Special Committee on Aging). They have introduced a bill to upgrade nursing home care and increase penalties for federal standards violations. Currently, the maximum fine is around $10,000. Hardly a deterrent! They plan to increase fines to $25,000 for a serious deficiency and $100,000 for a deficiency resulting in patient death.

Beasley Allen hears from people every day who are shocked and grieved to find their loved ones have suffered at the hands of the very people they expect to provide expert care and compassion. Certainly, increasing penalties seems like a step in the right direction. As they say, “money talks,” and maybe if nursing home facilities feel a pinch in the bottom line as a penalty for endangering residents, they will step up quality of care and monitoring.

Not surprisingly, the American Health Care Association, which is a nursing home trade group, opposes the bill, favoring “less punitive ways to measure and improve the quality of care,” according to the Times story.

But David P. Sloane, a spokesperson for the AARP, which lobbies for older Americans, praises the effort, quoted by the Times as saying it is “one of the most significant nursing home reform initiatives” in two decades.

Other states on the “worst reporting” list are Arizona, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Carolina and South Dakota.

Read the full story in the New York Times.

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About the author: Wendi Lewis is a writer employed by Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis & Miles, P.C. Based in Montgomery, Ala., Beasley Allen is one of the country’s leading firms in civil litigation on behalf of claimants.

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