Senator Bob Casey Demands Answers on Nursing Home Safety

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Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) is trying to get information on how staffing shortages at state survey agencies are affecting their ability to make sure that people living in long-term care facilities are safe.

Senator Casey this week sent letters to survey agencies in all 50 states, as well as Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico, after reports from federal watchdogs say that staffing shortages at survey agencies are often linked with failures to do timely, high-quality inspections of nursing homes. The Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services (OIG) issued a report in January saying that “staffing shortages are a root cause of State survey performance problems.” According to Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services data, as of mid-August, nearly 30 percent of nursing homes have not had standard surveys done.

“State survey agencies are integral to ensuring the health and safety of Americans reliant on our Nation’s health care providers, ranging from hospitals to nursing homes to intermediate care facilities and more. These agencies play a particularly important role in oversight of the country’s more than 15,000 nursing homes, enforcing federal standards related to medical care, adequate staffing and safeguarding residents from abuse and neglect, among others. By conducting comprehensive inspections, known as standard surveys, every 15 months and promptly investigating complaints, state surveyors are the eyes and ears ensuring quality care is delivered,” wrote Senator Casey.

Officials from state survey agencies, and those from previous years, have said that it is hard to find and keep surveyors. This affects the number and quality of nursing home surveys. Local governments are finding it harder to attract and keep workers. In order to meet requirements, states have had to use measures like hiring contract inspectors, encouraging overtime, and sending surveyors to other places. Senator Casey wants information from states about how the availability and experience of surveyors affect their ability to do their jobs, data on turnover among agency staff, and information on how salaries in nursing are affecting hiring and retention.

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Read the letters to state survey agencies here.

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