State News for October 2015

The new scrutiny will affect around 18,000 LTC workers, Bowling said.
The new scrutiny will affect around 18,000 LTC workers, Bowling said.

Northeast

West Virginia rolls out tougher background checks for LTC workers in effort to make facilities ‘safer'

West Virginia — West Virginia has begun requiring a comprehensive background check program for long-term care employees. All skilled nursing providers will be required to use the program by the beginning of 2016.

The new screening requirements include fingerprint-based state and national criminal history checks for applicants of jobs that have direct access to residents.

The strengthened checks will be required for applicants at SNFs, home health agencies, hospices, LTC hospitals and residential care providers who give long-term care services.

“The new program will reduce the potential for abuse, neglect and exploitation of the elderly and other vulnerable adults by ensuring that individuals with certain criminal histories will not become direct access workers in long-term care in the Mountain State,” said West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources Cabinet Secretary Karen L. Bowling, MSN. 

West Virginia was one of 25 states that received funding from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services for the National Background Check Program, which assists states with strengthening background checks for long-term care employees.

Grant given for health IT

RHODE ISLAND — The Rhode Island Quality Institute has received a $2.7 million federal grant to improve care coordination and transitions at long-term care facilities, the organization announced in August. 

The two-year grant will support the Sharing Health Information for Transitions in Care project, which aims to increase the number of health IT services used by providers, increase the electronic exchange of health information and improve individuals' access to their healthcare information.

The project's organizers hope the grant will assist in increasing efficiency, reducing costs and making real-time information available to patients and their families. 

Patients and their families participating in the project will be provided access to their data, and taught the benefits of viewing, downloading and transmitting their information using data portals. 

New advertisement limits

MASSACHUSETTS — Nursing homes will no longer be able to advertise that they provide “memory care” or similar services unless they meet state dementia care standards, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health said in a letter to providers.

A facility will still be able to list “dementia” when listing the types of residents it admits, as long as it includes a disclaimer that it does not offer specialized dementia care. The letter included an acknowledgement that the state allowed nursing homes to advertise for dementia care in the past, even if they had not met all of the requirements.

The state's memory care advertisement standards were scrutinized in an Alzheimer's Association of Massachusetts and New Hampshire review, released in July, which found that 60% of facilities advertising memory care lacked training and design changes to qualify as dementia care facilities. The association has been a long-time advocate for the law.

Task force investigates

PENNSYLVANIA — A task force has been formed by the Pennsylvania Department of Health to address growing allegations of understaffing and neglect in the state's nursing homes.

The group will review the state's nursing home operations over the next six months and develop possible improvements. Task force members include long-term care industry experts, members of Gov. Tom Wolf's (D) office and leaders of the state's departments of Aging, Human Services and State.

The task force also plans to consult with nursing home leaders, healthcare professionals and consumer groups, according to the Department of Health.

Southeast 

State adds 1,000 new beds

FLORIDA — The state Agency for Health Care Administration approved requests for almost 1,000 new nursing home beds in late August.

The majority of the approved requests are in North and Central Florida, where long waiting lists for nursing home spots are common, according to a report in Health News Florida.

Florida has estimated 3,115 new nursing home beds would be needed to remedy a shortage of housing for the state's aging and disabled population. Until the new beds were approved, it had been more than 10 years since Florida issued certificates for new nursing home spots. 

Midwest

Firefighters placed on leave

MINNESOTA — Six employees of the Maplewood, MN, fire department, including the chief, were placed on administrative leave after the death of a nursing home resident.

The firefighters were called to Good Samaritan Society nursing home in Maplewood in early August, responding to a call that a 71-year-old resident with Parkinson's disease had stopped breathing. They attempted to resuscitate the resident and transport her to the hospital, but stopped at the request at her husband.

Police investigated whether the emergency responders met the legal requirements when they stopped trying to resuscitate the resident since she did not have a “do not resuscitate” order, according to the Star Tribune

Despite the police department's and county attorney general's ruling that there was no criminal wrongdoing in the case, the employees were placed on leave.

SNFs admit more inmates?

OHIO — The state is considering a plan to release dying prison inmates into nursing homes to cut costs. 

Ohio has allowed the release of terminally ill inmates to nursing homes or hospice since 1994, but a new amendment to that rule would broaden the number of inmates who qualify for release. 

The proposed extension would expand the compassionate release law to inmates serving mandatory sentences for crimes including drug possession, sex crimes, murder and rape. Those serving life sentences and those on death row would not qualify for release. 

The proposal is raising concern from some healthcare organizations that believe moving inmates to nursing homes would be a tough sell to residents.

West

County sale was wrong

CALIFORNIA — The Appellate Division of the State Supreme Court ruled that the Orange County Legislature was wrong when it tried to sell the county's Valley View Nursing Home by forming a local development corporation.

Opponents of the decision, including the nursing home's residents and staff, claimed Orange County lawmakers violated the county charter when they voted to create a development corporation by a simple majority; the country charter says a two-thirds vote is needed. 

Those in favor of keeping Valley View in the county's hands said the attempt to sell was a “shameful” move, WAMC Northeast Public Radio reported.  

Largest operator sued

CALIFORNIA — The state's largest nursing home operator is being sued by the family of a resident who committed suicide last year while living at a suburban Los Angeles nursing home.

The family of Courtney Cargill filed a lawsuit against nursing home owner Shlomo Rechnitz, claiming the facility where Cargill lived neglected mentally ill residents in order to “maximize profits.” 

Cargill, who was known by staff to be suicidal, signed herself out of the nursing home last year and committed suicide outside of a nearby gas station by lighting herself on fire. The facility was fined $20,000 and cited for failing to supervise her.

Rechnitz came under fire earlier this year when an investigation by the Sacramento Bee uncovered a long list of lawsuits, regulatory fines and government investigations facing his company, Brius Healthcare Services.