Nursing homes’ information available through new online tool

by | Sep 28, 2012

A new online tool that enables consumers to analyze inspection reports for nursing homes across the country is now available.

The search engine was created by ProPublica, an independent, nonprofit organization devoted to investigative journalism. It is at https://projects.propublica.org/nursing-homes.

Called Nursing Home Inspect, the free tool holds details on 118,000 deficiencies at 14,565 institutions. Most of the reports have been completed since January 2011. New ones will be added as they become available.

“It’s great,” said Pat

McGinnis, executive director of California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform. “For consumers, once they’ve homed in on a particular facility, this can give them some idea of the quality of care and the problems.”

Until recently, people have had to visit nursing homes or a government agency or file Freedom of Information Act requests to see inspection reports. This year, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services began posting the reports online.

ProPublica took that information and created an application that enables people to query the database and compile reports that contain a word or words such as “rape,” “sexual assaults,” “bedsores,” “rude,” “mistreat,” “ignore” and “elope,” a term used when people leave a facility unsupervised.

The goal is to enable consumers, researchers and others to see trends and the scope of problems.

Industry representatives maintain that looking only at tools such as Nursing Home Inspect gives a limited and skewed picture of what is occurring.

“Inspection reports are filled with negative findings,” said Deborah Pacyna, spokeswoman for the California Association of Health Facilities. “It’s all what you didn’t do.”

She noted that the inspection reports don’t reveal overall resident satisfaction or innovative programs that may be in place.

Pacyna advised consumers to consider how nursing homes rank on quality measures such as staffing levels, percentage of residents who lose too much weight, and use of antipsychotic medications. These and other such measures can be found on the federal government’s website at www.medicare.gov/nursinghomecompare.

The catheter incident is detailed in a Feb. 16 inspection report for Herman Health Care Center in San Jose, which was also faulted for using restraints to keep residents in wheelchairs as they ate or sat in a large activity room.

Administrator McNair Ezzard said the nursing home investigated and could not substantiate the catheter complaint. He declined to discuss the restraint allegations in detail, but described the facility as now “restraint free” and said, “Corrections were made and some employees were let go.”

The complaint about photos being removed and food taken away came from a resident of Oakhill Springs Care Center in Oakland. The May 2011 inspection report also faulted the facility for not pulling privacy curtains and exposing partially dressed residents.

Oakhill Springs managers could not be reached for comment, but the owner told investigators the family photos interfered with room lighting and that the food had been at room temperature too long. The owner denied taking the crackers and jelly.

Consumer advocate McGinnis said Nursing Home Inspect is a valuable site but should be just one of the factors considered when choosing a nursing home. Nearness to relatives, whether the home accepts Medicare or Medi-Cal, and whether it meets the special needs of a potential resident are other factors.

Her organization’s website, www.canhr.org, has information on citations issued by the state.

“We always encourage people to go visit facilities,” McGinnis said. “If you don’t like visiting there, it’s very unlikely that your relative is going to want to live there.”