GAO study: State inspectors overlook, downplay facility deficiencies

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A new government study pokes holes in the Bush administration's claim that its policies have resulted in significant quality improvements in nursing homes.

The Government Accountability Office found that state inspectors miss serious deficiencies or downplay their seriousness. Those understated deficiencies cause harm to the residents, the GAO report said. That harm includes severe weight loss, multiple falls that result in broken bones and avoidable pressure ulcers.

Other report claims: Because the timing of inspections is predictable, nursing homes have time to hide problems. Also, cost concerns have delayed the installation of automatic sprinkler systems in older nursing homes. Sens. Charles E. Grassley (R-IA) and Herb Kohl (D-WI) requested the study.

Dr. Mark McClellan, the administrator of the Centers of Medicare & Medicaid Services, expressed concern about state inspectors' possible omission of deficiencies. While nursing home quality has improved in five years, such improvements are at risk because of lack of Congressional funds and overextended state budgets, he said.