What does it take to turn a bad nursing home around and stop the abuse and neglect of the patients who live there? So far, it’s hard to say.

When a nursing home “underperforms” badly enough, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid may recommend it as a candidate for federal intervention through the Special Focus Facility program. Last year, a total of 440 nursing facilities nationwide were deemed bad enough to be recommended for intervention. About 20 of those were in Pennsylvania.

The idea is that more regular inspections (twice a year, instead of only once) and the additional threats of fines will encourage these facilities to clean up their acts. However, the program can only handle 88 facilities at a time — and it isn’t unusual for a facility that’s made the CMS list to languish for years before it actually enters the program.

Even then, it’s not exactly clear that the government’s additional oversight does any good. Consider these examples of events that occurred in facilities that were already in the Special Focus Facility program:

  • In May 2019, a patient died because he aspirated food into his lungs because the staff didn’t bother to suction the food out of his airway when needed.
  • One nursing home managed to graduate the program with 57 substantiated complaints of abuse or neglect — and was never actually fined for any of them.
  • A Vermont nursing home left a patient’s infected foot fester until maggots got into the wound.
  • A Virginia nursing home evicted a wheelchair-bound patient by dumping him on his sister’s front lawn, without food, medication, water or any assistance.

These are not isolated events. If you suspect that your loved one’s nursing care is less-than-adequate, it’s important to stay on top of the situation. If you suspect abuse or neglect, act quickly to secure their safety and speak to an attorney as soon as possible.