State News: Hearing set after NLRB files complaint against eldercare company

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State News: Hearing set after NLRB files complaint against eldercare company
State News: Hearing set after NLRB files complaint against eldercare company
CONNECTICUT – A nursing home operator continues to battle a complaint that the National Labor Relations Board filed regarding the alleged wrongful dismissal of 36 employees at three long-term care centers. 

The New England Health Care Workers District 1199 initiated the NLRB complaint, claiming operator HealthBridge to be at fault.

In March, the NLRB deemed HealthBridge violated its union contract and ordered it to pay back wages and reinstate the terminated housekeeping and laundry employees. Healthcare Services Group (HCSG) had required them to re-interview for their jobs at lower pay and seniority.

But HealthBridge is appealing, claiming it should not be penalized because HCSG took action against the employees after its contract with HealthBridge ended. A July 12 hearing date was originally set and subsequently bumped to Aug. 10.

Governor: Need tort reform
TENNESSEE – Tennessee nursing home operators love the plan. And Gov. Bill Haslam (R)is even going so far to call it a “jobs creation bill.”

But for the victims of personal injury, abuse and neglect, as well as their families, sweeping tort reform now under consideration would “punish those who can never afford the years of additional care that actual abuse causes,” writes an editor for The Tennessean's Opinion page.

The reform measure would put significant caps on the amount of jury awards handed out in malpractice lawsuits against healthcare providers. Critics of the plan say it flies in the face of reason in a state whose nursing homes receive among the lowest quality care ratings in the nation.

Haslam maintains that by making the climate more business friendly, tort reform would add more than 122,000 jobs and generate $16 billion to the state's economy over the next decade.

And a recent poll commissioned by the Tennessee Center for Policy Research found that Tennessee voters favor limiting medical malpractice lawsuits by more than a 2-to-1 ratio.

Infection control initiative
GEORGIA – State health officials hope a new initiative will stem the rate of healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) acquired during nursing home stays by educating providers and caregivers about the latest proven techniques and precautions.

The infection prevention and control training program, designed by a unit of the Georgia Department of Community Health, will include an intensive two-day curriculum of instructor-led, interactive sessions. It will train personnel on proper techniques and also impart strategies to providers for preventing HAIs and maintaining effective programs.

Legal observers question whether the program will reach enough caregivers.

Agency: 18% abuse rate
KENTUCKY – Abuse and neglect occurred in nearly one out of every five long-term care facilities in the state last year, according to a report from the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. The agency is home to most of the state's human services and healthcare programs, including Medicaid.

Of the 2,048 abuse and neglect investigations performed by social workers in 2010, 368 were found to be legitimate, the Cabinet report, “Elder Abuse in Kentucky,” found.

Cabinet officials bemoan the fact that as hard as it is to find clear evidence of abuse, it's even more difficult to prosecute alleged offenders.

Among residents 60 and older, the abuse and neglect rates are even higher — about 25% — according to the report. About 17% of the 1,859 probable cases in 2010 led to criminal charges.

Medicaid bailout short
SOUTH CAROLINA – Lawmakers in March went to the till for the second straight month to rescue the state's troubled Medicaid program. The latest move matched a $100 million bailout approved in February.

But the $200 million bailout was still $25 million short of bringing the program into the black. The agency was able to trim only $3 million from its deficit by eliminating such services as adult dental, vision and podiatry care and routine newborn circumcisions.

Provider-rate reductions will trim another $7.5 million, forcing the program to explore drastic measures to find another $17 million in cuts by May 13. One proposal on the board includes cutting off payments for hospice care, respite care for caretakers and nutritional supplements for nursing home residents.

Cuts would bring lawsuits
NEVADA – First, the bad news: proposed deep Medicaid rate cuts could force the closure of many nursing homes in the state. Even worse news: Gov. Brian Sandoval's (R) proposed shaving of $10.1 million in Medicaid payments could open the state to federal lawsuits and the loss of another $10.1 million in matching funds.

So asserts a new analysis from the law firm Lionel Sawyer & Collins based on Medicaid case rulings in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Moreover, the Nevada Health Care Association warned legislators that the proposed cuts would likely be blocked by a federal court.

At issue is whether Medicaid cuts of any kind would hamper the level and quality of care available. The association noted that the proposed cuts would reduce reimbursement rates to nursing homes by about $20 per day and cost an average nursing home about $500,000 per year, forcing some to close.

“The cuts are too deep. They expose the state to potential lawsuits I think are very real,” a state lawmaker acknowledged to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Ombudsman plan criticized
IOWA – The state's long-term care ombudsman is being criticized for a plan to allow nursing home representatives to evaluate her job performance.

Ombudsman Jeanne Yordi reportedly offered up the plan to create an advisory committee composed of representatives of the nursing home and assisted living industries, the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals (which regulates care facilities) and Iowa's Area Agencies on Aging.

Yordi  told the Des Moines Register that she didn't see the plan as a conflict as long as regulators and nursing home officials are mindful of the fact that she represents the residents of Iowa's long-term care facilities.

The new director of the inspections department in February eliminated the jobs of 10 nursing home inspectors and two elder-abuse prosecutors. The ombudsman took no position on the move, but reportedly advised her staff to not publicly criticize it, and the Iowa Department on Aging followed suit.

Providers rip ‘bed tax'
WASHINGTON – Many of the state's 200 licensed nursing homes are decrying proposals to impose a $21 per-day, per-bed fee that proponents say shores up the state's sagging Medicaid safety net by allowing it to receive enough federal matching funds to overcome $84 million in looming cuts.

The state's long-term care association supports the controversial plan. Rick Miller, leader of the Washington Health Care Association, said the Medicaid cuts would be “terribly crippling.”

But major nursing operators such as Providence Health & Services argue that measures such a “safety net” fee, now in place in 37 other states and approved already for the state's hospitals, would place an unfair burden on private-pay residents. It also would shift $15 million in federal funds to non-nursing home programs such as home care or adult day-health centers, they say.

Fire sprinkler upgrades
NEW YORK – State regulators approved more than $5.5 million in fire sprinkler up-grade projects at 15 nursing homes. The costs of the projects range between $48,000 to $849,240.

A recent federal mandate requires fire safety equipment and upgrades at long-term care facilities that participate in the Medicare and Medicaid programs. Nearly 2,500 sites across the country are expected to complete $846 million in sprinkler-related work over a five-year phase-in period.

Nationwide, 2,300 nursing home fires are reported each year — or one for every seven nursing homes, according to the National Fire Protection Association, a fire-prevention research group.

A 2008 USA Today investigation found that more than half of the nation's nursing homes violated federal fire safety standards each year. Furthermore, government regulations allowed thousands of older facilities to operate without the sprinklers or smoke alarms often required in buildings used by members of the public.