PA Department of Health Highlights May 2020 Nursing Home Inspection, Sanction Information Amidst COVID-19 Pandemic

nursing facilities

HARRISBURG, PA — In the May 2020 report, Pennsylvania Department of Health nursing home surveyors conducted 292 inspections of nursing homes, including 210 complaint investigations during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, nine sanctions were finalized against nursing care facilities, which included the issuance of one provisional one license, and civil penalties totaling $83,000.

“We know that congregate care settings, like nursing homes, have been challenged by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Dr. Levine said. “That is why we remain committed to protecting the health and well-being of our most vulnerable Pennsylvanians by continuing to hold nursing home operators accountable, as necessary, to ensure they are providing safe care. If you see something at a nursing home that doesn’t seem right, we encourage you to speak up.”

Although annual inspections are not occurring at this time, extensions are in place according to guidance issued from the Center of Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS). The majority of other inspections are still occurring but may be conducted virtually rather than onsite to minimize the spread of COVID-19.

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Individuals with complaints about a nursing home can file that complaint with the department in several ways. Complaints can be made anonymously by calling 1-800-254-5164, filling out the online complaint form, emailing [email protected] or sending the complaint in the mail to the department.

The number of long-term care facility resident cases, employee cases and deaths continues to decrease, as reflected in the long-term care facility graphs on the department’s LTCF data page.

The department recently announced an order directing testing at skilled nursing facilities. Facilities in need of assistance are encouraged to contact the department, which can provide assistance from a number of available resources on infection control, personal protective equipment, etc.

The inspections, called surveys, include information on nursing home patient-care and building inspections. If a facility is cited for not following regulations during the survey, it must submit a plan of correction that includes what will be done to fix the issue and a completion date. The department will conduct a surprise follow-up inspection to ensure the issue is resolved. Surveys are posted to the website 41 days after the survey is completed.

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The department also may issue a sanction. Possible sanctions include a civil penalty, a ban on admissions, a license being revoked, or a facility being put on a provisional license, which requires, among other things, being subject to additional inspections. A provisional license can be renewed no more than three times. The department can return the facility to a regular license if it is satisfied that all issues have been corrected and it is warranted.

The department maintains a searchable database, which allows the public to view patient care surveys, building safety surveys, size of the nursing home, type of ownership and additional information about each of the nursing homes in the state. The department oversees nearly 700 nursing homes and more than 88,000 beds within nursing homes in Pennsylvania, in addition to other facilities, including hospitals, ambulatory surgical facilities, home care agencies and others.

The Wolf Administration has taken a three-pillar approach to protecting the vulnerable residents living in nursing homes and other long-term living settings from COVID-19:

  • Ensuring resident safety through testing, education and resources;
  • Preventing and mitigating outbreaks; and
  • Working in partnership with state agencies, local health departments and long-term care facility operators.
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The Department of Health has been pushing personal protective equipment to all of long-term care facilities in Pennsylvania. Additionally, the department continues to work with ECRI as they provide technical assistance and our Healthcare Acquired Infection (HAI) team to further assist and remain connected with the nursing homes in order to best assist their needs.

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