The Daily Item of Sunbury, Pennsylvania recently reported that many Pennsylvania nursing homes have earned substandard scores on the federal government's five-star quality rating system. The ratings are available on the Nursing Home Compare website at Medicare.gov. As a Pennsylvania nursing home negligence attorney, I think it's unfortunate that so many nursing homes are not performing as well as they should be. However, it's great that patients and their families have this information, so that they can make better-informed choices about which nursing homes will give them the care that they deserve.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) began making the quality ratings available in December 2008. The ratings include nursing homes that participate in Medicare or Medicaid, and are based on three areas: staffing, quality-of-care measures and, most importantly, health inspections. Mary Kahn, senior public affairs specialist for Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program, said that the ratings offer "an incredibly detailed look at nursing homes' health and safety: administration of medications, incidents of avoidable issues like bed sores, whether residents decline in an unexpected way." Kahn added that families should also visit nursing homes to see for themselves what they're like, and they should use the ratings to ask questions about areas in which the homes have scored poorly. For example, if the home has scored poorly in staff-to-patient ratios, a family might ask the nursing home administrator whether they plan to hire additional staff, and when.
Here in Pennsylvania, families will have to ask a lot of questions. In Montour, Northumberland, Snyder and Union Counties, there were six nursing homes that rated only one star out of five, far below average: Kramm Healthcare Center in Milton; Mount Carmel Nursing and Rehabilitation in Mount Carmel; and Mountain View, A Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Coal Township. The other three are Grandview Health Homes Inc. in Danville; the Manor at Penn Village in Selinsgrove; and Buffalo Valley Lutheran Village in Lewisburg. Six other nursing homes rated only two out of five stars: Golden Living Center Mansion in Sunbury; Kramm Nursing Home in Watsontown; Manor Care Health Services in Sunbury; Nottingham Village in Northumberland; Sunbury Community Hospital's Skilled Nursing Facility; and Rolling Hills Manor in Millmont. Only three nursing homes in these counties earned three or more stars. RiverWoods in Lewisburg managed to rise from a one-star rating in 2008 to a three-star rating; and Emmanuel Center for Nursing in Danville and Shamokin Area Community Hospital's Skilled Nursing Facility both have four stars out of five.
A low rating doesn't necessarily mean that patients are in danger, but in my experience as a Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyer, it's a sign that patients and their families should pay attention to. A low rating can signal that a nursing home prioritizes profits over patients, or that it's not training its staff or hiring them in sufficient numbers to ensure good patient care.