A recent news story by WVTM 13 News Birmingham found that over 70% of nursing homes nationwide are not being inspected each year as mandated by federal law, raising concerns that abuse and neglect could be happening in nursing facilities without families realizing what’s happening.
Officially known as a standard survey, nursing home inspections must be conducted every 15 months according to federal rules and regulations governing nursing homes and other assisted living facilities
“They (inspections) are important in making sure that we identify whether people are in compliance when it comes down to doing the things they’re supposed to do from infection control standpoints,” said Dr. Mary McIntyre of the Alabama Department of Public Health, who runs the state’s nursing home inspection program.
When the pandemic began in March 2020, the federal government paused inspections for long-term care facilities for six months. Since then, many nursing homes have still not been inspected nationwide, potentially putting nursing home residents at risk by creating an environment that breeds elder abuse and neglect.
Overall, 71% of nursing homes have not been inspected nationwide in at least 16 months, according to a study conducted by the Office of Inspector General, a federal agency that is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Specifically, 10,913 of 15,295 nursing homes surveyed by the Inspector General had gone at least 16 months without a standard survey as of May 31.
Nursing home inspections in Alabama
Nursing home inspection rates for the past 16 months vary widely from one state to another. In some states, 22% of nursing homes have not been inspected since March 2020. In other states, that figure is 96%.
As for Alabama, 76% of nursing homes have gone without an inspection since March 2020, according to WVTM 13 News. However, Dr. Mary McIntyre insisted the state remains focused on the safety of residents in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.
“We have been responding to complaints and those specific, what we call focused inspection surveys that CMS (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) was identifying as far as a potential risk,” Dr. McIntyre said.
Part of the problem has to do with staffing. Since the pandemic began in March 2020, the Alabama Department of Public Health has lost half of the staff members used to inspect long-term care facilities such as nursing homes, Dr. McIntyre told WVTM 13 News.
Watching for red flags is key
So how do you know if the nursing home where your loved one lives is safe? The best thing to do is visit the nursing home yourself (if you can safely do so) and see how your loved one and other residents actually live there.
Things to ask yourself include:
Does the nursing home look clean and well maintained?
Do residents look like they're clean and eating well?
Does the nursing home prohibit visits or restrict visiting hours?
Is your loved one constantly sick or suffering from infections?
All of these things could be warning signs that something’s wrong. You can also find out if the nursing home has been cited or fined for health or safety violations. Pro Publica has a website that lists violations for nursing homes by city and state. In Birmingham, the following Alabama nursing homes have been cited for “total deficiencies” since 2017:
- Birmingham Nursing and Rehabilitation Ctr LLC (15 total deficiencies)
- West Hill Health and Rehab (19 total deficiencies)
- South Haven Health and Rehabilitation LLC (8 total deficiencies)
- East Glen (11 total deficiencies)
- Northway Health and Rehabilitation LLC (13 total deficiencies)
- North Hill Nursing and Rehabilitation Ctr LLC (12 total deficiencies)
- Oak Knoll Health and Rehabilitation LLC (10 total deficiencies)
- South Haven Health and Rehabilitation LLC (1 total deficiency)
- Brookdale University Park SNF (14 total deficiencies)
- Eastview Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center (9 total deficiencies)
- Fair Haven (13 total deficiencies)
- South Health and Rehabilitation LLC (19 total deficiencies)
- Civic Center Health and Rehabilitation LLC (17 total deficiencies)
- St. Martins In The Pines (14 total deficiencies)
- Cherry Hill Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center (3 total deficiencies)
- Greenbriar at the Altamont Skilled Nursing Facility (6 total deficiencies)
- Kirkwood By The River (12 total deficiencies)
- Galleria Woods Skilled Nursing Facility (8 total deficiencies)
- Birmingham Nursing and Rehabilitation Center East (10 total deficiencies)
- Diversicare of Riverchase (16 total deficiencies)
- Arlington Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center (11 total deficiencies)
- Mount Royal Towers (18 total deficiencies)
If you suspect that a loved one is being abused or neglected in a nursing home in Alabama, take the following steps immediately:
- Seek immediate medical attention for your loved one from an independent doctor.
- Tell the nursing home director or administrator that you believe your family member is being abused or neglected.
- Call the police right away to report abuse of any kind at the nursing home.
- Contact Alabama’s Long-Term Care Ombudsmen, which investigates claims of abuse and neglect in nursing homes.
- Call a nursing home abuse lawyer right away to explore filing a civil complaint for damages.
Contact a nursing home abuse attorney in Birmingham today for a free consultation
Time is of the essence in cases involving nursing home abuse and neglect because evidence can easily be misplaced or destroyed. The sooner you have an attorney on your side to investigate and find the facts, the better.
At Shuttlesworth Law Firm LLC in Birmingham, our legal team can listen to what happened, answer your questions, and help you figure out the best way to proceed with your claim. We know how to build strong, compelling cases in the pursuit of justice and maximum financial compensation.
Contact us today to schedule a free case evaluation.