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Does Pulling Medicare Funding From Underperforming Nursing Homes Help Residents?

Its a fine line between ordering an under performing nursing home to close its doors versus giving the facility an opportunity to improve.  Many of the ‘under-performing’ facilities are responsible for caring for some of the most challenging residents–those that other facilities are incapable or simply refuse to care for.  In the end, resident safety needs to preempt all other factors when making a determination as to a facilities future.

Pulling Medicare Funding From Underperforming Nursing HomesCase in point, Whispering Pines Nursing Nursing Center– which has lost its Medicare and Medicaid funding– effectively forcing the facility to close its doors.  The decision to pull federal funding was due to serious deficiencies relating to patient safety discovered during inspections of the facility.

Consequently, 128 patients and 140 employees will need new facilities to live and work in within the next 30 days.  Among the safety problems at Whispering Pines noted in a recent report include:

  • Failing to investigate allegations of abuse
  • Failing to provide condoms to sexually active, HIV-positive residents
  • Not regularly screening residents and employees for tuberculosis

“Whispering Pines has chronic problems, and they’re unable to provide us with any credible evidence that they could clear them up,” said Dorya Huser, long-term care division chief for the Oklahoma health department.  “We’re looking out for the best interest of the people that live there and deserve a better standard of care.”

According to Dr. Tom Merrill, the medical director at Whispering Pines, moving the residents will traumatize and disrupt their care. “It is good care by excellent nurses who are faced with patients that have challenging psychiatric problems.  This is not good for any of them.”

Who could argue that residents deserve to live in a safe facility?  However, is it realistic to expect psychiatric residents to find a new facility with just 30 days notice? Is any way an under-performing facility can be turned around?

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  • renee

    It is traumatic to the residents and investigators have no clue as to the problems these type resident present. In another state, oddly enough, doing anything about some of the resident behaviors would be considered a deficiency r/t resident rights. I would be just as interested in the survey group(s) that is mainly involved in closure. They can be very subjective and truly have their picks. I think there has to be a way to monitor the federal and state reimbursement on how the money is utilized. Proper training, adequate staff, residents appropriate for long term care. Administrators face alot of oversight by owners to fill beds and many times those residents just aren’t appropriate but once they are admitted there is no place to send them when they prove themselves to be unmanageable. Emergency rooms don’t even want to deal with them and will turn them right back. The nursing homes are becoming easy scape goats

  • Alisa Pallister

    Caring for challenging psychiatric patients is no excuse for:
    •Failing to investigate allegations of abuse
    •Failing to provide condoms to sexually active, HIV-positive residents
    •Not regularly screening residents and employees for tuberculosis
    I could see how understaffing could result in these deficiencies, but to blame it on challenging psychiatric patients is a cop out. The problem most likely starts with management and the culture of carelessness that they have allowed their employees to adopt.
    With new leadership and staff education, perhaps this facility could be turned around, but it would take more than 30 days. Given that these problems have been labeled “chronic”, it indicates that this is not the first time that the facility has been given notice to correct the problems. It is a shame though, that it had to come to this.

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