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Alarming Findings in Nursing Home Abuse Probe

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August 30, 2017
Edward Smith


Alarming Findings in Nursing Home Abuse Probe

Hi, I’m Ed Smith, a Sacramento Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer. The recent publication from the Office of the Inspector General (OIG), Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued an early alert based on its findings that Medicare and Medicaid had inadequate procedures to ensure reporting of abuse to law enforcement officials. The ongoing review to detect and combat elder abuse found that instances of mistreatment at nursing facilities have been mishandled at alarming rates. The audit has already found 134 victims whose injuries may have been the result of potential abuse or neglect from January 1, 2015, through December 31, 2016. A significant percentage of these incidents may not have been reported to law enforcement. See Statistics on Nursing Home Abuse in California & Nationwide.

Reporting Abuse

Skilled Nursing Facilities (SNFs) are required to immediately report all allegations of mistreatment, neglect, or abuse (including injuries of an unknown source) and theft. The results of their investigations must be reported to officials within five days, and corrective action against verified violations is mandated. The OIG found that 22% of Medicare beneficiaries experience adverse events. These events include infections, bed sores, and medication-induced bleeding. About 69% of cases were found to have been preventable with better care. Over half of those afflicted required hospitalization to treat the adverse event. These preliminary findings combined with prior report results raise significant concerns that incidents of potential neglect or abuse at nursing homes have gone unreported.

Failures to Report Abuse

Of the 134 cases identified in the alert, 96 of the reviewed medical records (72 percent) contained indications that the Medicare beneficiaries’ injuries were reported to law enforcement. The remaining 38 cases showing no evidence that law enforcement had been notified despite State mandatory reporting laws designed to ensure hospital staff do so. The study identified a specific case of sexual assault involving a woman with verbal and mobility impairment and a male resident. Rather than report the incident to law enforcement as mandated by law, emergency room records show that the SNF staff actually hindered the investigation by assisting the victim with bathing, changing and using the bathroom- potentially destroying evidence that would have been found with a rape kit. In this case the family of the victim had to notify law enforcement directly.

Who is Responsible?

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the agency responsible for enforcing the mandatory reporting laws, has been found to be woefully ill-equipped for its task. Despite 2011 legislation empowering the agency to levy fines and penalties against violators, CMS has never used this provision. The agency only recently updated training programs and operations manuals in early 2017.

The OIG is committed to protecting the health and safety of seniors. It has issued numerous reports that have detailed the problems with quality care, reporting, and investigation of potential neglect or abuse at nursing homes, group homes, and SNFs.

Related Articles by Sacramento Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer, Ed Smith:

Sacramento Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer

I’m Ed Smith, a Sacramento Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer. If you or a loved one has suffered neglect or abuse at a group home, nursing home, or skilled nursing facility, I can help.  Abuse or negligence toward an elderly member of your family that is in a nursing home or long-term care facility is a travesty. Please call me for free, friendly advice at (916) 921-6400 or (800) 404-5400. If you prefer, you can reach me via this contact form online.

My clients have left helpful ratings and reviews on Avvo, Yelp, and Google.

I’m a member of the California Million Dollar Advocates Forum.

Please take a look at my prior verdicts and settlements here.

Photo Credit: Sandlapper1709 via Wikicommons

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