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Investigation: How nursing home abuse stays hidden from the public

On Behalf of | Dec 23, 2021 | Nursing Home Injury

All across Michigan and the rest of the nation, many nursing homes continue to receive four- and five-star ratings from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The rating system was created to give Americans reliable information about the safety and quality of nursing facilities.

However, a recent New York Times investigation found nearly 3,000 examples of dangerous incidents, faulty procedures and incompetence leading to deaths and injuries to residents, which aren’t factored into the rating system.

Thousands of problems identified by inspectors aren’t public

The Times reviewed nursing home inspection reports from nearly every state except Missouri and Florida, which said the CMS told them not to reveal any data. The CMS also refused to supply national figures. From the state data the paper received, they uncovered several serious incidents at nursing homes, including:

  • A Texas woman found lying in a pool of blood in the nursing home’s parking lot.
  • An Arizona resident sexually assaulted in the facility’s dining room.
  • A Minnesota woman contracted COVID-19 after nursing home staff moved a coughing woman into her room.

In all three cases, state inspectors concluded the homes violated federal regulations and endangered residents. However, none of those incidents were made public, and each nursing home kept its high rating.

A secretive process weighted in favor of nursing home operators

The Times extensive report details how the public never hears about nursing home abuse incidents and citations. The report says many complaints disappear from the record during a secretive appeals process. Even many findings upheld on appeal are never reported by the CMS, and nursing facility ratings are unaffected.

Most of the citations made public are usually for minor infractions over employee hand-washing and other hygiene-related issues. And even when state inspectors issue severe citations, which are upheld on review, nursing homes can appeal to a special federal court in the executive branch. However, that process is also private.


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