Nursing homes face crackdown on care Tougher rules: Inspections find increasing problems in treatment of elderly residents.

December 21, 1998

NURSING HOMES are a welcome community resource, but they can be the most troubling of institutions. Care of aged, infirm residents demands high moral and professional responsibility. With an aging society, the need for nursing homes and similar facilities is rising. More than 30,000 people are in Maryland homes. But repeated examples of deficient care for these defenseless members of society have pushed the government to step up nursing home inspections, toughen standards and impose heavier fines for violators. The president's Nursing Home Initiative in July served notice nationwide that many institutions are not meeting their basic obligations for humane care.

"Complaints against nursing homes have skyrocketed," says Carol Benner, head of licensing for the Maryland health department.

Investigators are finding more cases of substandard care: 10 homes in the past four months, compared with three in the previous four months. The state agency is aggressively acting on complaints of resident abuse against nursing home workers.

Tighter scrutiny is leading to sanctions. After three negative state health department inspection reports this year, Stella Maris Nursing Home in Timonium faces federal fines of $1,000 a day from the Health Care Financing Administration. "Immediate jeopardy" to health cited in a report included malnourishment of residents, inadequate treatment of bed sores, records falsification and lack of qualified supervision.

The owner of the 448-bed home, Mercy Medical Center, corrected the deficiencies and passed reinspection last week.

Harford Gardens Nursing Center in Baltimore lost its vital Medicare and Medicaid approval last week after failing four inspections since May. State nurses are on site monitoring operations.

Greenbelt Nursing & Rehabilitation Center is in court to overturn a ban on receiving Medicare and Medicaid funds. The facility has failed to meet standards for 11 months; court monitors are overseeing its activities.

Recent cuts in federal Medicare payments may affect some nursing home services; difficulty finding satisfactory employees is another concern. But residents are entitled to proper nutrition tTC and decent health care. Closer regulatory inspection is necessary to ensure that compliance.

Pub Date: 12/21/98

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