HARRISBURG, Pa., July 26, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Secretary Dr. Karen Murphy announced that the Department of Health has already begun implementing many of the recommendations made in the Nursing Home Audit report released today by Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, as part of its ongoing effort to enhance the quality of care and safety of residents in Pennsylvania's nursing homes.
"Last July, I asked Auditor General DePasquale to perform an independent review and audit the policies and procedures already in place in the Department of Health and recommend ways the department could improve how it enforces statutory enforcement authority," said Secretary Murphy. "Since that time, we have already launched a multi-faceted, performance improvement initiative that addresses many of the audit recommendations and are committed to continuing to accelerate the department's efforts to make a positive impact on improving the lives of the more than 80,000 Pennsylvanians who rely on nursing homes to meet their long-term health care needs."
The audit report released today outlined issue areas that, in the past, needed additional attention from the department. In the year since requesting the audit, the department has already partially or fully addressed many of these concerns.
The department has taken many proactive steps to improve the quality of nursing home care in Pennsylvania over the past year, including:
- Forming a Nursing Home Task Force, comprised of national and state experts, to offer recommendations to the department on improving the quality and safety of the care delivered in nursing homes;
- Engaging long-term care providers in reviewing current regulations and seeking input on recommendations for necessary changes to regulations; and
- Establishing a formal process to work with the departments of Human Services and Aging on nursing home care issues.
The department has also implemented the following changes in its operating procedures.
- In July 2015, the department again began accepting anonymous complaints about nursing homes. Complaints received by the department increased 34 percent in 2015 as compared to the number of complaints received in 2014. There was also a nearly 10 percent increase in the number of substantiated complaints.
- The number of deficiencies cited as a result of surveys nearly doubled in 2015 versus 2014.
- A new telephone system was installed for complaint intake with multiple lines to increase caller access to a person rather than voice mail.
- The nursing home complaint intake form was made more visible and accessible on the department's website.
- The number of staff responsible for investigating nursing home complaints has been increased.
- The department also increased enforcement of regulatory sanctions. For example, the department issued more than twice the number of provisional licenses (19) in 2015 than were issued in 2014 (9). Likewise, the number of civil monetary penalties issued increased by 191 percent in 2015 (32) over 2014 (11).
"I want to take this time to thank Auditor General Eugene DePasquale and his staff for creating this report, so that we may better serve the nursing home residents of the commonwealth," added Secretary Murphy. "The department will continue to work internally and across agencies to identify strategies that expand communication between various long-term care programs and ensure that complaints from consumers are addressed and resolved by the proper department."
The department urges residents who have concerns or a complaint regarding a health care facility in Pennsylvania, including nursing homes, to call the department's complaint hotline at 1-800-254-5164 or visit our website at www.health.pa.gov.
MEDIA CONTACT: Penny Ickes, 717-787-1783
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SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Health