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Pennsylvania’s Department of Health will receive $1.25 million toward efforts to revamp the state’s nursing-home regulations, Secretary of Health Karen Murphy announced Tuesday.

As part of its regulatory and licensing responsibilities, the department annually inspects 704 nursing homes with 88,070 beds across the state. Murphy said funds from a settlement between Reliant Senior Care Holdings and the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office will go toward implementing the recommendations of a task force set up in 2015 to address regulatory concerns.

Of the $2 million paid under the terms of a settlement, Attorney General Bruce Beemer said $1.25 million will immediately go to the state’s Department of Health.

“The Reliant facilities failed to deliver on a promise to provide personalized service to residents,” Beemer said, noting that the care provided at the facilities did not match representations made in marketing materials.

In 2015, Murphy asked Auditor General Eugene DePasquale to review state response to nursing-home complaints. His report highlighted three key areas where improvement was needed: consistency when evaluating nursing homes' compliance with current staffing requirements; procedures implemented to respond to all complaints; and effective methods to fine facilities that are out of compliance.

Murphy said in coming months the department will work with legislators to revise its regulations, recommend laws and retrain its employees to make the biggest shift in nursing-home oversight in more than two decades.

“The changes we are making and will implement are not an indictment of Pennsylvania’s nursing homes,” Murphy said. Instead, she said, nursing-home residents and the 130,000 employees working in them have asked for revisions and legislative changes.

Beemer said Reliant Senior Care Holdings operated 22 facilities in Pennsylvania. The long-term care chain has reorganized under new ownership and a new name. It is now Priority Healthcare Group.

The task force was set up to address concerns of a 2015 suit by former Attorney General Kathleen Kane's office against 14 facilities operated by the Golden Living Centers nursing home chain. The suit alleged inadequate care at the facilities and was expanded to another 11 homes later in the year. According to spokesman Jeffrey Johnson, that case is still in the pretrial phase of the proceedings.

Sam Brooks, an attorney with Community Legal Services of Philadelphia, said the organization applauds the secretary’s announcement but sees some shortfalls.

Specifically, he said the way the Department of Health deals with complaints relies too heavily on the view of the nursing home.

Last year, CLS released a report on what it says is the DOH’s failure to protect Philadelphia nursing-home residents. Its review found that from 2012 through 2014, the state dismissed 92 percent of complaints filed by residents or other individuals as unfounded.

Brooks said CLS would prefer those who filed the complaint be more involved in the investigation.

“We’re very concerned about that, and we continue to see problems with it, and this doesn’t seem to change,” he said.

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