In November 2003, the District’s Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program released an interim, and scathing, assessment of the city’s nursing facilities. It followed an equally scathing report released by congressional delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton‘s office in 2002. (In 2001, we did a story of our own on the lax oversight of District nursing homes.) Today, the ombudsman is releasing a follow-up report, “Broken Promises II,” which assesses the District’s attempts to improve upon the problems cited by the previous reports.
If the title is any indication, the report is clear that District nursing homes are a long way from providing quality care. The highlights:
- Since 2002, the Health Regulation Administration (HRA) has never had more than seven investigators on staff, despite a promise to triple that number. The current staff has only four investigators. The staffing shortage might have something to do with the four-and-a-half months that it takes the HRA to respond to ombudsman complaints.
- In its May 2005 report, HRA said that “most District [nursing facilities] were found to be in substantial compliance with local nursing home regulations” in 2004. Depends on what you mean by “substantial compliance”: The ombudsman points out that 55 percent of facilities had deficiencies with the potential to harm residents and 45 percent had deficiencies causing actual harm to residents.
- Complaints about care logged by the ombudsman increased from 1,296 in 2004 to 1,675 in 2005, even though there was one fewer home last year.
- Despite the thousand-plus complaints, in 2005, only 11 homes were issued a total of 26 notices of infraction, resulting in the collection of $10,110. That’s one more infraction than was issued in 2004, despite a one-third increase in complaints.