Significant understaffing of nursing home inspectors by the Ohio Department of Health has resulted in year-over-year failures by the state to meet federal deadlines for evaluating nursing home facilities, according to records obtained by The Plain Dealer.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) contracts with states to inspect nursing homes across the country. The average interval between inspections of the same facility are to take place within 12.9 months, according to the federal agency’s requirements. These surveys are intended to ensure quality care for residents.
However, many states, including Ohio, fall outside the 12.9-month inspection interval average. Ohio ranks fifth with a 13.8-month average interval, falling behind Idaho, Kansas, Arizona and Massachusetts.
“The people in nursing homes require daily care; that’s why they are there. It’s incumbent on the state to make sure they are getting that care,” said Richard Mollott, executive director of the Long Term Care Community Coalition, a New York City-based nonprofit advocating for nursing home residents and their families. “If you aren’t getting inspectors in there every year to check on what’s going on, then you have a problem.”
Each inspector in Ohio oversees six nursing homes. Other states that fall within the inspection interval deadlines, such as neighboring Michigan, Kentucky and Illinois, have one inspector for every four nursing homes.
In Ohio, there is a correlation between the inability to meet inspection deadlines and the quality of care. At least 31 Ohio nursing home deaths in the past three years have been linked to lapses in care by authorities. Last month, The Plain Dealer reported that two-fifths of nursing homes in Ohio were listed as substandard by the federal government.
Filling surveyor slots has been a challenge for state officials. The jobs don’t pay well and those hired rarely stay on the job for long. The process is also highly time-intensive, requiring inspectors to analyze nursing homes using the Quality Indicator Survey, which gives them little time to survey nursing home residents about the care they are receiving. Nursing home resident advocates warn that these situations allow for lax patient care and open the door to elder abuse and neglect.