Md. does a better check of its nursing homes

ECONOMIC & NAVIGATION SIGHTSEEING

May 18, 2008|By JAY HANCOCK

Maryland's nursing homes, usually among the best in the nation, had an off year in 2007, according to newly published information from the Government Accountability Office.

State citations for inflicting residents with "actual harm" or putting their vulnerable charges in "immediate jeopardy" were given to 17 percent of Maryland's 234 nursing homes last year, up from just 8 percent in 2005 and 2006.

Maryland homes normally score better than those in most states.

Connecticut, for example, routinely cites 40 percent or more of its nursing homes for actual harm or immediate jeopardy "deficiencies" each year. Last year 42 percent of the nursing homes in Colorado flunked.

States must inspect each home receiving Medicare or Medicaid payments at least once every 15 months. To ensure uniform standards from state to state, the Woodlawn-based Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) often checks behind the state inspectors.

If Maryland homes perform well, it doesn't seem to be because inspectors are slacking off.

Last year CMS double-checked 19 Maryland inspections and found only two in which monitors missed serious problems, the GAO said.

States with higher levels of unreported deficiencies included New Jersey, Illinois and Missouri.

Of course, the best and most diligent monitors are patients' loved ones.

Visiting your elderly, institutionalized relative often won't just put a smile on her face. It might keep her from getting hurt.

jay.hancock@baltsun.com

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