Pennsylvania nursing homes get bad marks from national group

The Associated Press
An elderly couple walks down a hall of a nursing home in Easton, Northampton County, in 2015. Research shows fatal falls have nearly tripled in older Americans in recent years, rising to more than 25,000 deaths yearly.

HARRISBURG – Pennsylvania nursing homes have received a failing grade from a national advocacy group.

Families for Better Care issued its findings Monday. The group based its report card on eight measures collected by the federal government, including the number of problems found during government inspections, staffing levels and the number of verified complaints.

Pennsylvania received an F and ranked 46th among the states, down from 32nd in 2014, the last year the Families for Better Care’s released a report card. Pennsylvania received a D in 2014.

Zach Shamberg, the CEO of the Pennsylvania Health Care Association that represents nursing homes, said the report card is based on 2017 data. He said Pennsylvania nursing homes showed significant improvement in a few measures last year, including the number of homes with severe deficiencies.

Shamberg told that funding shortages impact the homes’ ability to care for residents.

He said 70% of Pennsylvania nursing home residents are covered by Medicaid, the state-federal program for people with lower incomes, but Medicaid funding hasn’t increased since 2014. The average Pennsylvania home receives $27.25 per day less than the cost of caring for each resident.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health said the homes’ poor grade and the drop in national ranking is due in part to increased state oversight and penalties against nursing homes. If one state inspects and penalizes its home more vigorously than another, officials say that could result in its homes appearing worse.

Department Spokesman Nate Wardle said there were 541 inspections in April of 369 nursing homes, resulting in more than $206,000 in penalties. Wardle also noted that Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf supports mandated staffing levels, and has assembled a group to look for policies that will improve nursing home safety.