Utilizing the Freedom of Information Act, ProPublica requested and received uncensored write-ups of problems found during nursing home inspections around the country. The online publication has made the list available to the public. The Freedom of Information Act allows for the full or partial disclosure of previously unreleased information and documents that are in the custody or controlled by any agency of the U.S. government.
U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services website had redacted versions of these reports which contained information such as patients’ ages, medical conditions, dates of incidents and prescribed medications blacked out of the report. The agency claimed the intention of the redactions was to balance patient privacy concerns with the need to inform consumers about the quality of care.
ProPublica requested the information because they say the added information makes the reports more useful. The publication cites an example of prescription information in the unredacted write-ups which could help identify cases in which patients received medications such as antipsychotics that are dangerous for those with dementia. The reports do not identify patients or nursing home employees.
Medicare’s redacted version’s searchable database can be found at Nursing Home Compare. Information such as inspection results, staffing, quality measures and penalties can be found in the database. However, some nursing home watchdog groups say that Medicare’s database gives an inaccurate picture of many nursing homes because only class “A” citations are recorded.
The 2011 death of an 88 year-old patient at an L.A. nursing home is an example cited by Elderabuse.com. The nursing home was found negligent for failing to administer oxygen to the fainting patient at a flow rate required by physician orders and the patient’s care plan. The patient suffered rapidly declining oxygen saturation levels, cardiopulmonary arrest, and unexpected death. The guilty violation was downgraded to a Class B and the facility only received a $750 fine. But a search of the nursing home on Medicare’s database shows no deficiencies, no violations and no fines.
ProPublica has their own searchable database, Nursing Home Inspect, which identifies facilities cited for serious deficiencies and penalties in the last three years. The reports list more than 267,000 deficiencies. Users can search by state and by keywords
The nursing home with the most fines in the nation, $737,000, is located in S.C. Number twelve on the list is located in N.C., with $373,000 in fines and number nineteen is another S.C. nursing home which racked up $333,000 in fines. A list of the top twenty nursing homes with the most serious deficiencies included four facilities located in S.C.
About the Editors: Our personal injury law firm has offices in Virginia (VA) and North Carolina (NC). The attorneys with the firm publish and edit articles on three Legal Examiner sites for the geographic areas of Virginia Beach, Norfolk and Northeast North Carolina as a pro bono service to the general public.