State's nursing home fines more than double in a year, 13-times higher over three years

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The Pennsylvania Department of Health has imposed $816,000 in fines for nursing home  providers during the first half of 2017. This is more than the past three years combined, a Pennsylvania newspaper report found.

The fines totaled $62,000 in 2014; $170,050 in 2015; and $407,450 in 2016.

Last year, the department received a negative review last year stating it had been too lenient on the enforcement in nursing homes. The department audit examined a 22-month time span.

The department has also found significantly more deficiencies that cause resident harm in facilities this year. April Hutcheson, a department spokeswoman, said this is because the department has resumed using federally mandated anonymous reporting, which had been discontinued previously. State surveyors also received federal training last year for how to identify the scope and severity of the situation.

"And, as a result, we have seen an increase in citations of deficiencies at the actual harm and immediate jeopardy level," said Lorraine Ryan, a CMS spokeswoman.

In 2014, there were seven cases where the department found a citation that had caused a resident actual harm. So far in 2017, there have been 88.

People from the nursing home industry have criticized the sharp increase in fines and citations.

"I don't see their job as being traffic cops, but to work with facilities to ensure resident care is enhanced," said W. Russ McDaid, executive director of the Pennsylvania Health Care Association, which represents 500 members across the state. "Unfortunately, their choice has been to sanction, sanction, sanction; trying to sanction facilities into compliance."