While nursing home occupancy dropped between 2011 and 2015, complaints were up by a third during the same years, a new federal report asserts.

In 2011, there were 47,279 complaints, which had risen to 62,790 by 2015, notes a new report from the Office of Inspector General Report from the Department of Health and Human Services.  More than half were prioritized as high priority or resulting in immediate jeopardy, triggering  onsite investigations within 10 working days. A third of complaints were substantiated, the OIG found.

The increase may not reflect declining care quality, authors suggested. Instead, it may reflect better options for filing and  tracking the reports, they added.

More than half of complaints related to quality of care/treatment or resident/patient/client neglect. Examples given included a lack of blood glucose strips for a patient with high blood sugar who was later found deceased, and a resident who called for assistance after a bowel movement and wasn’t helped until three and a half hours later.

Tennessee accounted for most of the immediate jeopardy complaints in the five-year period, the report says. Additionally, Tennessee, Arizona, Maryland and New York accounted for almost half of the high priority complaints not investigated onsite within 10 working days.

To read the HHS data brief, click here