Alabama Nursing Home Quality Weighed By ProPublica

January 25, 2013

Birmingham nursing home abuse lawyers know how difficult it is for family members to choose the right assisted living facility for their loved one. hospital7.jpg

For most, it's uncharted territory and the concerns are amplified by the fact that you've heard all the horror stories. But it can be tough to get straight answers about a facility's track record. Even once you've decided on a facility, keeping tabs on its performance can prove convoluted at best.

Now, there is a new tool. News organization ProPublica has launched a data-driven site that provides updated information regarding nursing homes in Alabama and throughout the country. Each facility is documented, the serious deficiencies calculated and rated (with detailed reports attached) and information about fines and penalties tabulated as well.

The information was culled through an extensive analysis of data provided by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services dating back three years.

In Alabama, of the 228 nursing homes reviewed, 35 had been cited for serious deficiencies, with about $1.75 million racked up in accrued penalties. In neighboring Mississippi, there were 204 homes reviewed, 48 with serious deficiencies and a total of $1.55 million fines. In Georgia, there were 356 homes reviewed, with 39 noted for having serious deficiencies and a total of $3.25 million in accrued penalties. And in Tennessee, there were 322 homes reviewed, with 41 having been cited for serious deficiencies resulting in more than $4 million in penalties.

One of the main points made by ProPublica's reporters was that fines and penalties for the same offenses were wildly inconsistent throughout the country. Alabama ranked 15th in the nation for the number of serious deficiencies, and 7th for the average fine amount, which came out to about $25,000 per violation.

Of the two facilities in the state that were given the undesirable title of being a "special focus facility," one was in Birmingham. These are nursing homes that have been flagged for having a history of serious quality issues.

The Birmingham Nursing and Rehabilitation Center East has in the past three years been cited for eight serious deficiencies (24 total) and been ordered to pay nearly $350,000 in fines. This is not even close the highest in the state, but ProPublica notes it's the kind of deficiencies that earn the facility its rating.

In the attached report, the center, a for-profit partnership, is certified to care for 132 patients and currently has 117 residents. In the most recent report issued this summer, the home was cited for failing to take proper precautions to prevent urinary tract infections and failing to properly treat residents with feeding tubes to prevent problems with aspiration, pneumonia, vomiting and dehydration.

In 2010, the agency was cited for an LPN who allegedly stole medications from patients, failed to properly notify law enforcement and other appropriate authorities of the incident, and failure to develop policies that prevent the mistreatment, neglect or abuse of residents or the theft of their property.

Additional Resources: Nursing Home Inspect, Alabama, Dec. 27, 2012, ProPublica