State to add nursing home inspectors

audit found backlog of complaints

April 16, 1999|By Walter F. Roche Jr. | Walter F. Roche Jr.,SUN STAFF

State health officials are about to substantially increase their nursing home inspection staff after a federal audit report strongly criticized Maryland for long delays in responding to complaints of poor care from patients, their families and health care workers.

Carol Benner, director of licensing and certification in the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, said that 10 inspectors will be added immediately to the staff of 35. Eight inspectors and two supervisors will be added this year. Ten inspectors are slated to be hired next year.

The expansion is a result of provisions in the state budget approved by the General Assembly.

Benner said her agency was working to respond to all pending complaints and expected the backlog -- noted in a March U.S. General Accounting Office report -- to be eliminated completely late this week or early next week. In one case, the GAO said, the state failed for four months to respond to a complaint from an ambulance attendant about a patient whose body was covered with sores and fingers caked with blood.

Benner said the six inspectors assigned to respond to complaints have been merged with the regular inspection staff, which will handle regular inspections and complaints.

Benner said she had instructed her staff to be more sensitive to the complaints of family members. The GAO report included the case of a patient in a Parkville nursing home, who died shortly after being released. A state official told the woman's granddaughter that the department gave priority to complaints involving living patients, not dead ones.

State inspectors have taken action against another nursing home. Benner said that serious deficiencies were found at Mariner Health of Catonsville, in the first block of Smith Ave. She said the home was one of three Mariner Health facilities in the Baltimore area cited recently.

Pub Date: 4/16/99

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