Las Vegas Sun

September 22, 2014

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STATE GOVERNMENT:

Official refutes state’s failing grade for elderly care

A state official is challenging a report that says Nevada ranks low in the care of elderly patients at 50 nursing homes in the state.

The Families for Better Care, a nonprofit organization, issued a report earlier this month giving a failing grade in patient care to Nevada and 10 other states.

The rankings said the ombudsman’s office in Nevada doesn’t investigate all the complaints about the care of the elderly. The nonprofit's report said that in 2011, there were 896 complaints but only 324 were investigated. And basing its findings on federal statistics, it gave Nevada an “F” grade.

Marla McDade Williams, deputy director of the state Division of Public and Behavioral Health, said four to five inspectors spend a week in each nursing home examining the conditions.

When they find deficiencies, fines are levied, Williams told the Legislative Interim Finance Committee on Thursday.

The finance committee authorized the health division to use $592,546 in federal funds to improve its computer system for background checks of individuals who work in the homes. Williams said the federal money will allow the state to more quickly identify those with criminal backgrounds who should not be permitted to work in the nursing homes.

“The background checks have been a problem for many years,” said Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, who added that she thought the issue had been addressed.

She also questioned whether the state was collecting fines imposed for the deficiencies found in the inspection.

“We need to hold these people accountable,” she said.

Williams said the state will complete its investigation within 45 days and impose a penalty for “substantial complaints.”

Compared to other states, Williams said the inspectors do a more thorough inspection, even checking on minor deficiencies.

“We are fining, and the information is on our website,” she said.

The law, she said, is not clear on suspending or pulling a license.

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