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Department of Health outlines nursing home inspections done during coronavirus pandemic


Since the beginning of February, the Pennsylvania Department of Health nursing home surveyors conducted 1,473 inspections of nursing homes, including 907 complaint investigations during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to information released Saturday by the department.

Ten sanctions were finalized against nursing care facilities, which included the issuance of two provisional one licenses, and civil penalties totaling $93,500.

“We know that congregate care settings, like nursing homes, have been challenged by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Health Secretary Rachel Levine said. “That is why we remain committed to protecting the health and well-being of our most vulnerable Pennsylvanians by continuing to hold nursing home operators accountable, as necessary, to ensure they are providing safe care. If you see something at a nursing home that doesn’t seem right, we encourage you to speak up.” 

The following breakdowns represent survey activity that occurred each month:

• April: 486 surveys of 336 separate facilities; 113 building safety surveys; 373 patient care surveys; 298 complaint investigations.

• March: 537 surveys of 359 separate facilities; 150 building safety surveys; 387 patient care surveys; 321 complaint investigations.

• February: 450 surveys of 314 separate facilities; 119 building safety surveys; 331 patient care surveys; 288 complaint investigations.

Although annual inspections are not occurring at this time, extensions are in place according to guidance issued from the Center of Medicaid and Medicare Services. The majority of other inspections are still occurring, but may be conducted virtually rather than onsite to minimize the spread of COVID-19.

Individuals with complaints about a nursing home can file that complaint with the department in several ways, according to the Department of Health. Complaints can be made anonymously by calling 800-254-5164, filling out the online complaint form, emailing or sending the complaint in the mail to the department.

In 2019, the department conducted 5,381 inspections of 3,637 nursing homes, including 3,285 complaint investigations. Of those, 213 sanctions were finalized against nursing care facilities, which included the issuance of 26 provisional one licenses, four provisional two licenses and one ban on admissions. Civil penalties in 2019 totaled more than $2.5 million.

The inspections, called surveys, include information on nursing home patient-care and building inspections. If a facility is cited for not following regulations during the survey, it must submit a plan of correction that includes what will be done to fix the issue and a completion date, according to the department. The department conducts a surprise follow-up inspection to ensure the issue is resolved. Surveys are posted to the website 41 days after the survey is completed.

The department also may issue a sanction. Possible sanctions include a civil penalty, a ban on admissions, a license being revoked, or a facility being put on a provisional license, which requires, among other things, being subject to additional inspections. A provisional license can be renewed no more than three times. The department can return the facility to a regular license if it is satisfied that all issues have been corrected and it is warranted.

The department maintains a searchable database, which allows the public to view patient care surveys, building safety surveys, size of the nursing home, type of ownership and additional information about each of the nursing homes in the state. The department oversees nearly 700 nursing homes and more than 88,000 beds within nursing homes in Pennsylvania, in addition to other facilities, including hospitals, ambulatory surgical facilities, home care agencies and others.