TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas inspectors failed to follow up on nearly half the problems they found in 79 nursing homes across the state in 2014, according to a federal report issued Monday.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General report is part of a review of state agencies that inspect nursing homes that receive Medicare and Medicaid. Federal officials found that of 100 randomly-selected deficiencies found in 79 nursing homes, the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services verified that nursing homes corrected the problems in only 48 cases.
In other cases, state inspectors required nursing homes to submit correction plans but didn’t check to make sure the plans worked, The Kansas City Star reported .
The report cited a shortage of inspectors as a possible reason for the problems, noting that as of May 19, the state agency had 13 vacancies in 69 positions that are responsible for inspecting 310 nursing homes.
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback said he would review the report’s findings.
House Minority Leader Jim Ward, a Democrat from Wichita, said the report revealed “significant problems” that could cause the loss of federal funds.
“It’s very, very frustrating that after seven years, (the Brownback administration) still can’t do the basic executive oversight,” Ward said.
The federal report also found only about half the nursing homes the federal agency reviewed were re-inspected within the 15 months, as required by law. And it found about 13 percent of the follow-up reviews were accidentally deleted from the state’s database.
Mitzi McFatrich, the executive director of Kansas Advocates for Better Care, said his organization had urged the federal government for years to look into Kansas’ nursing home inspection problems.
“We think that puts residents at higher risk and for people that are already being harmed, they suffer that harm longer,” McFatrich said.
The federal agency recommended that the state tighten its follow-up inspection requirements, update its policies to ensure the data is protected against modification or loss, and develop a plan to ensure nursing homes get a routine inspection every 15 months.
In its response, the state said it had made changes to ensure that nursing homes will be required to show evidence they’ve addressed problems found in inspections. The state also said it had fixed the system to prevent further data loss.
And state officials said the 15-month routine inspection requirement would be monitored but cited the vacant inspector positions as an obstacle. It said KDADS Secretary Tim Kick planned believes the executive branch and the Legislature need to re-evaluate next year how much inspectors are being paid.