After fatal COVID policies at nursing homes, weaknesses in care for aging Baby Boomers persist

Recent federal watchdog reports raise alarm about inadequate care at home and hospitals.

Published: September 17, 2023 11:09pm

Three years after fatally flawed nursing home policies led to widespread COVID-19 deaths in New York, Michigan and New Jersey, the healthcare system to treat the aging Baby Boom population is still blinking red with alarm.

Several recent federal watchdog reports are exposing significant flaws in the care of senior citizens, ranging from the failure of home healthcare providers to report falls and injuries of their patients to woefully unprepared nursing homes that don’t have plans for the next pandemic, natural disaster or staff turnover.

Even basic care such as fighting infections has been flagged as recently as last week at Georgia nursing homes, as evidence of an unprepared system is cropping up everywhere.

According to a September report from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General, there were a total of 155 deficiencies found at a Georgia nursing home, with 18 of them being related to infection control. 

"During our onsite inspections, we identified deficiencies related to life safety, emergency preparedness, or infection control at 19 of the 20 nursing homes we audited, totaling 155 deficiencies," the report reads. "Specifically, we found 71 deficiencies related to life safety, 66 deficiencies related to emergency preparedness, and 18 deficiencies related to infection control."

Similar red flags have been raised at facilities around the country.

The OIG specifically recommended that these nursing homes "work with CMS to address foundational issues to implement a risk-based approach to identifying and conducting more frequent surveys at nursing homes and to develop standardized life safety training for nursing home staff."

The report also noted that a good number of these deficiencies are due to the high staff turnover rate at nursing homes which has led to a lack of awareness.  

Of the 20 nursing homes that were visited, 14 had at least one or more deficiencies related to their fire detection and suppression systems, for a total of 23 deficiencies.

In June 2022, the OIG revealed an alarming report that 77% of nursing homes in areas at greater risk for natural disasters had multiple issues with emergency preparedness.

"Administrators reported concerns across seven topic areas, with activities related to ensuring proper staffing during emergencies and transporting residents during evacuations being the most problematic," page two of the report reads. "An estimated 62 percent of nursing homes reported at least one challenge regarding staffing and an estimated 50 percent noted at least one challenge regarding transportation."

The OIG has continued to press nursing homes to work with federal agencies to comply with safety guidelines and improve the safety of the senior citizens in nursing homes.

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