HARRISBURG – In a continuing effort to create a government that works for Pennsylvania, Secretary of Health Dr. Karen Murphy today met with nursing home industry stakeholders to provide an update on the department’s efforts to improve nursing home care in Pennsylvania, highlight progress made to date and to discuss next steps.
Murphy also sought feedback from attendees to help guide future collaboration.
“Protecting seniors is a top priority for the Wolf Administration, and though we are committed to addressing challenges around quality, delivery, and safety, we cannot do it alone,” said Murphy.
“Working directly with industry partners ensures that we are taking the comprehensive steps needed to further enhance the quality in Pennsylvania’s long-term care facilities.”
Last year, the department accelerated efforts to evaluate regulatory processes in nursing homes. That initial review revealed that: 39 percent of nursing homes received just a one- or two-star rating in the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services five-star rating system; state long-term care regulations had not been updated since 1999; and there was an overall decrease in nursing home complaints.
To address these concerns, the department acted swiftly to make the following changes:
- Resumed taking anonymous complaints;
- Revised the Quality Assurance complaint intake process;
- Reassigned and increased qualified surveyor staff;
- Approved additional positions;
- Instituted mandatory review/retraining for all of the department’s Division of Nursing Care Facility surveyors;
- Installed a new phone system to enhance complaint operations; and
- Expanded collaboration with other agencies.
These changes resulted in the following:
- A 34 percent increase in the number of overall complaints;
- A more than 100 percent increase in the number of provisional licenses issued by the department;
- A nearly 200 percent increase in civil monetary penalties issued by the department; and
- An approximate 160 percent increase in the total enforcement actions taken by the department.
The Department of Health also took several additional steps to improve nursing home care in the commonwealth. In July of 2015, the department asked Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale to conduct an independent review in a cooperative effort to audit the policies and procedures already in place and recommend ways to improve how the department enacts its statutory enforcement authority.
The findings are expected to be released by the Auditor General in a report this summer.
In August of 2015, the department formed the Nursing Home Quality Improvement Task Force. The task force includes nationally recognized experts in long-term care management who are charged with identifying ways the department can advance quality improvement in Pennsylvania’s long-term care facilities.
The task force meets monthly and will issue a comprehensive report with findings and recommendations this summer.
“While some important steps have been taken, there is a lot of work ahead of us if we are to achieve our goals of delivering care and protecting our seniors,” added Murphy.
“We will seek input from our stakeholders as we continue to position Pennsylvania as a national leader for quality nursing home care.”
Visit “Top Online Services” at www.health.pa.gov to locate nursing care facilities or to make a complaint.