In previous years, the Pennsylvania Department of Health has been rather lax in its penalty system regarding complaints of substandard and negligent care in nursing homes. However, within the first four months of this year, there has been a drastic change. In fact, the state has exacted more fines during this period than the previous three years combined, hinting at a much-needed change in how the industry’s failings are handled.
While it is promising to see substandard nursing care finally being addressed, it is still to be seen if improved regulations and strict enforcement of fines will improve the state’s 700 nursing homes. A spokesman for the industry claimed these heavy sanctions would only result in financial strain on operators, rather than contribute to better outcomes for nursing home residents.
For too long, nursing homes were allowed to provide poor care, resulting in an epidemic of injuries and death to nursing home residents across the state of Pennsylvania, most of which were all preventable and easy to avoid through more attentive treatment. Without the fear of penalties looming over them, nursing home operators and staff were not inclined to rectify their shortcomings. That is, until now.
The total thus far for the first four months of fines amounts to about $796,750. For the three years that ended December 31st, records show fines totaling up to $639,500. These numbers do not include federal fines recommended by the state, which are also usually more substantial. State surveyors sanctioned 86 facilities so far, whereas only 72 were sanctioned last year, and 47 in 2014 and 2015 combined. These numbers make it clear that things are changing, even if it is still unclear where these changes will lead.