Harrisburg, PA – In its April 2021 report, the Pennsylvania Department of Health notes that nursing home surveyors conducted 427 inspections, including 281 complaint investigations, of 307 separate nursing homes. Of these, 90 were COVID-19-specific investigations. There were eight new sanctions finalized against nursing care facilities in the past month resulting in a total of $37,200 in fines.
“We continue to work with facilities to ensure all building safety and patient care standards are maintained and take action when necessary as we investigate all complaints,” Acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam said. “As COVID-19 remains a threat in nursing homes, we continue to work with staff and residents to ensure they have access to one of the three safe and effective vaccines that provide the best layer of protection against this virus.”
Individuals with complaints about a nursing home can file a complaint with the department in several ways. Complaints can be made anonymously by calling 1-800-254-5164, filling out the online complaint form, emailing [email protected] or sending the complaint in the mail to the department.
The inspections include information on nursing home patient care and building inspections. If a facility is cited during a survey for not following regulations, it must submit a plan of correction that includes what will be done to fix the issue(s) and a completion date for the resolution. The department will conduct a surprise follow-up inspection to ensure issues are resolved. Surveys are posted to the website 41 days after the survey is completed.
The Department of Health also conducts surveys on behalf of the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS). These surveys include federal certification and recertification, complaint surveys, building safety surveys and others.
The department also may issue sanctions that could 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 commonwealth. The department oversees 692 nursing homes with more than 88,000 beds in Pennsylvania, in addition to other facilities, including hospitals, ambulatory surgical facilities, home care agencies and others.
The Wolf Administration has taken a three-pillar approach to protecting the vulnerable residents living in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities (LTCF) from COVID-19:
· Ensuring resident safety through testing, education and resources;
· Preventing and mitigating outbreaks; and
· Working in partnership with state agencies, local health departments and long-term care facility operators.
While the COVID-19 vaccine is not mandatory, it is strongly encouraged for staff and residents to receive the vaccine to best protect against COVID-19. Following the vaccination clinics offered through the Federal Pharmacy Partnership, the department shared a LTCF vaccine strategy to ensure all residents and staff continue to have access to the vaccine. To date, the statewide average skilled nursing facility vaccination rate for residents was 80 percent and for staff was 52 percent. You can find the quarterly reported vaccine data on our LTCF Vaccine Strategy website.
While residents and staff at skilled nursing facilities are receiving vaccine, it is essential that everyone remain vigilant regarding the potential spread of COVID-19 in congregate care facilities. Data regarding LTCF cases can be found on the department’s LTCF data page.
More information regarding case information for all nursing homes, guidance provided to nursing homes, the orders in place, fact sheets and frequently asked questions documents to assist in regard to what is being done by the state to assist nursing homes can be found on the department’s COVID-19 nursing home page.
You can find the latest guidance on nursing home visitations here.