Oversight of Nursing Home Patient Neglect on the Decline

According to media reports, four out of every 10 nursing homes across the country were charged with at least one serious patient care violation since 2013.  Yet, the federal government recently announced its intention to lessen financial fines on facilities found to have committed potential nursing home patient neglect.  Even when the negligent nursing home care resulted in a resident’s death.

The new diminished oversight policy toward nursing homes is in keeping with the federal administration’s view on regulating businesses: The less supervision the better.

Nursing Home Patient Falls and Medication Errors

As with any medical care centers, mistakes are made in skilled nursing facilities.  But given the typical physical condition and age of the patients, patient care errors in nursing homes can be unusually devastating.  Serious and avoidable mistakes in medical care that lead to nursing home patient falls, medication errors and other forms of patient neglect often times are fatal.

To protect nursing home patients, state and local governments inspect these facilities on a periodic basis.  The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is the federal agency that imposes financial fines on skilled nursing home centers determined to be providing poor patient care.

In the past those fines could be substantial, depending upon how severe the mistake and how quickly the facility responded to address its errors. Congress in 2016 raised the level of fines to keep up with inflation.

But the new administration is revising guidelines to weaken most nursing home penalties imposed for poor patient care.  The new guidelines seek to not only lessen the dollar amount of financial fines placed on skilled nursing facilities but in some instances avoid issuing fines altogether.

A Kaiser Health News report identifies an Illinois nursing home facility found in 2016 to be negligent in monitoring a patient who was implanted with a pain-medication pump.  Complications arose and the patient died.  The nursing home was fined $283,000.  But the news report said that under the new guidelines, the fine would have been as low as $21,000.

Lawsuits to Compensate Victims of Poor Nursing Home Care

With the federal government wielding a much smaller hammer, some nursing homes may lower their patient care standards and practices.   So private litigation may play an even more necessary role in holding facilities accountable for shoddy care and preventing similar patient abuses in the future.

If you had loved one who suffered severe harm or died from what you believe was a mistake in nursing home patient care, contact a medical malpractice attorney.

The choice of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertisements.

Authored by Gray, Ritter & Graham, P.C., posted in Blog January 10, 2018