Harmful care rampant in nursing homes, official says

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Lewis Morris, chief counsel to the Department of Health and Human Services' inspector general
Lewis Morris, chief counsel to the Department of Health and Human Services' inspector general
A total of 20% of nursing homes deliver care that is directly harmful to residents, a government official told federal lawmakers Thursday.

More needs to be done to stop "egregious instances of poor care," said Lewis Morris, chief counsel to the Department of Health and Human Services' inspector general. He and others, including long-term care industry representatives, spoke before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. In his statement, Morris said that, while current measures can serve to correct existing problems, they do little to prevent problems from occurring, and that ultimately the onus for improvement of care rests on nursing homes, owners and directors.

He went on to offer some suggestions for new quality-of-care policies: Improve screening of all nursing home staff by creating a nationwide centralized database, create a demonstration project to establish mandatory compliance programs for selected nursing homes, and enhance the quality of care data made available to the nursing home industry and the public by expanding on CMS' Nursing Home Compare Web site.

Meanwhile, Acting CMS Administrator Kerry Weems outlined a number of the agency's quality initiatives, including a campaign to reduce the use of restraints and incidence of pressure sores, and a renewed focus for quality-improvement organizations, whose purpose is to better quality in nursing homes and hospitals.

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