Nursing homes have been under a harsh spotlight over the past year. A worldwide pandemic forced care facilities to lock down their residents while barring loved ones from visiting them. Countless deaths occurred from COVID-19.
Concurrently, all-important data mandated by a powerful government bureaucracy to identify any shortcomings or problems went unreported.
A lack of data
Standard surveys submitted by nursing homes help to identify, track, and ultimately address deficiencies. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General, over the past 16 months, 10,913 of the 15,295 nursing homes – or 71 percent – have gone without filling out standard surveys. State to state, the backlog ranged from 22 to 96 percent.
States are mandated to complete standard surveys at least once every 15 months in order to ensure that they meet federal requirements. In addition, onsite inspections will occur for nursing homes identified as violating these provisions, resulting in significant fines levied by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).
California accounts for nearly 90 percent of nursing homes without providing a standard survey. Out of 1,037 nursing homes in the state, only 146 completed their surveys.
States have attributed the pandemic as the reason for the significantly reduced number of surveys. In March of 2020, the CMS suspended standard surveys, instead prioritizing infection control surveys, data that is particularly limited in its scope. The OIG is seeking clarification on prioritizing the elimination of the backlog.
Comprehensive nursing home inspections in the form of standard surveys represent the last line of defense in ensuring that these care facilities are at least adhering to the minimum standards for both the safety and wellbeing of their residents.