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

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HARRISBURG, PA — In the December 2020 report, Pennsylvania Department of Health nursing home surveyors conducted 624 inspections, including 394 complaint investigations, of 400 unique nursing homes. Of these, 249 were COVID-19-specific investigations. One sanction was finalized against a nursing care facility in the last month, which resulted in the issuance of one civil penalty totaling $6,000.

“We continue to investigate all complaints for our nursing homes across the state, especially as these facilities may face further challenges by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. “The department is committed to ensuring nursing homes are held accountable in order to best protect and provide the best support for our most vulnerable Pennsylvanians. If you see something at a nursing home that doesn’t seem right, we encourage you to speak up by calling us, emailing us, or submitting the online form.”

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.

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While skilled nursing facilities have begun to receive vaccine, it is essential that they remain vigilant regarding the potential spread of COVID-19 in congregate care facilities. Data regarding LTCF cases can be found on the department’s LTCF data page.

The inspections 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.

The Department of Health also conducts surveys on behalf of the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS). These surveys include federal certification and recertification, complaint surveys, building safety surveys and others.

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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 692 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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Additionally, all long-term care facilities will have access to the COVID-19 vaccine through the Federal Pharmacy Partnership established by the federal government.

More information regarding case information for all nursing homes, guidance provided to nursing homes, the orders in place, fact sheets and frequently asked questions documents to assist in regard to what is being done by the state to assist nursing homes can be found on the department’s COVID-19 nursing home page.

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