ABC27 Investigates: Are hospice facilities slipping through the cracks?

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Sarah Dever has seen a lot during her work with the elderly.

“They know a lot more than what we think they do,” she said. “They’re so smart and, I don’t know, I just have a soft spot for the elderly.”

Dever was shocked when we told her facilities can legally go years without inspections.

During an ABC27 News investigation of Golden Living nursing homes in Pennsylvania, we found Golden Living owns hospice facilities in Pennsylvania under the name AseraCare. When we tried to pull reports to show the conditions of the hospices, we were surprised at the lack of available information.

Inspections for a Golden Living nursing home since 2010 had more than 50 surveys, while inspections for a Golden Living hospice facility since 2010 had only three surveys.

A Health Department spokesperson sent us an email pointing to federal regulations which now require hospices to be surveyed every 36 months. Previously, hospices only needed to be surveyed every six years.

“I think it’s crazy,” Dever said. “I think they should be inspected at least once a year. I’ve seen a lot of things go on in homes and hospice situations and it definitely needs to be inspected more.”

Nursing homes must be inspected at least once a year. Even the requirements for restaurant inspections are more strict than those for hospices.

So, why are the standards different? Why is there less required oversight for the facilities that care for the seriously ill and dying?

“Because they’re not cared about as much,” Dever said. “They’re old so people think they don’t need as much care and they just don’t care about them.”

Last month, we interviewed Health Secretary Dr. Karen Murphy. We didn’t talk about hospice centers specifically, but she did mention the need to be open to change in health care.

“It’s not a one and done,” Murphy said. “We have to continually evaluate what we’re doing and try to make it better.”

The Health Department can inspect hospices more often to follow up on complaints.

ABC27 sent questions about hospice inspections to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, but no one responded.

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