HARRISBURG — In the June 2020 report, Pennsylvania Department of Health nursing home surveyors conducted 269 inspections of nursing homes, including 238 complaint investigations during the COVID-19 pandemic. Of these, 105 were COVID-19 specific. In addition, two sanctions were finalized against nursing care facilities, which included the issuance of one provisional two license, and civil penalties totaling $20,560.
“We know that congregate care settings, like nursing homes, have been challenged by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. “That is why we remain committed to protecting the health and well-being of our most vulnerable Pennsylvanians by continuing to hold nursing home operators accountable, as necessary, to ensure they are providing safe care. If you see something at a nursing home that doesn’t seem right, we encourage you to speak up.”
Individuals with complaints about a nursing home can file that complaint with the department in several ways. Complaints can be made anonymously by calling 1-800-254-5164, filling out the online complaint form, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or sending the complaint in the mail to the department.
Although annual inspections are not occurring at this time, extensions are in place according to guidance issued from the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS). The majority of other surveys are still occurring, both virtually and onsite. Virtual surveys provide the same level of access but are doing virtually to minimize the spread of COVID-19. The number of long-term care facility deaths continues to decrease, as reflected in the long-term care facility graphs on the department’s LTCF data page. New cases have increased over the past few weeks as facilities conduct universal testing to determine the prevalence of COVID-19. The majority of these new cases are individuals who were asymptomatic.
The inspections, called surveys, include information on nursing home patient-care and building inspections. If a facility is cited for not following regulations during the survey, it must submit a plan of correction that includes what will be done to fix the issue and a completion date. The department will conduct a surprise follow-up inspection to ensure the issue is resolved. Surveys are posted to the website 41 days after the survey is completed.
The department also may issue a sanction. Possible sanctions include a civil penalty, a ban on admissions, a license being revoked, or a facility being put on a provisional license, which requires, among other things, being subject to additional inspections. A provisional license can be renewed no more than three times. The department can return the facility to a regular license if it is satisfied that all issues have been corrected and it is warranted.
The department maintains a searchable database, which allows the public to view patient care surveys, building safety surveys, size of the nursing home, type of ownership and additional information about each of the nursing homes in the state. The department oversees nearly 700 nursing homes and more than 88,000 beds within nursing homes in Pennsylvania, in addition to other facilities, including hospitals, ambulatory surgical facilities, home care agencies and others.