Nursing home watch group gives Pennsylvania a failing grade

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – It’s back to school for Pennsylvania, and the report card isn’t good.

The nursing home resident advocacy group Families for Better Care called ABC27 after seeing its nursing home investigation reports. The organization grades all 50 states on overall nursing home care quality.

“So many people have sacrificed blood and sweat and tears for us,” Executive Director Brian Lee said. “We owe it to them as they live in nursing homes to ensure they’re getting safe care and they’re treated with dignity and respect.”

Pennsylvania started at a C, and was downgraded to a D. The most recent report has not yet been published, but Families for Better Care says the Commonwealth will receive an F.

“It’s one of the few states that we see nationwide that’s actually on a downward trend of decline in nursing home quality,” Lee said.

He went on to say that the big difference between states that receive good grades and states that receive bad grades is staffing. That’s because more staffing typically means fewer problems slip through the cracks.

ABC27 compared staffing in Pennsylvania to staffing in Florida, a state Families for Better Care has given A’s.

Pennsylvania law requires 2.7 hours of direct care per resident, per day. Florida requires 3.6 hours — that’s the national average. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recommends 4.1 hours.

Lee says he’s encouraged by changes Pennsylvania’s Department of Health is making, such as more nursing home penalties and a task force taking a hard look at the issues.

But he says a lasting solution will take more.

“The legislature could fix many of the issues related to elder abuse and neglect in nursing homes tomorrow,” Lee told ABC27, referring to his desire to see laws requiring more staffing. He pointed out that for-profit nursing homes have lobbyists, but residents do not.

Lee cited studies that show such a move could actually save facilities money by cutting back on lawsuits and fines. The state could theoretically save money by not needing to throw as many resources toward “problem” nursing homes.

ABC27 contacted the Department of Health for a response to Pennsylvania’s failing nursing home grade. No one gave a response.

“As long as the nursing home problems are kept in the spotlight by the regulatory agencies and by the media, there is real hope for residents that safety will improve in Pennsylvania’s nursing homes,” Lee said.

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