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Department of Health Highlights February 2021 Nursing Home Inspection, Sanction Information Amidst COVID-19 Pandemic

03/16/2021

Harrisburg, PA - In its February 2021 report, the Pennsylvania Department of Health notes that nursing home surveyors conducted 497 inspections, including 283 complaint investigations, of 377 separate nursing homes. Of these, 162 were COVID-19-specific investigations. There were three new sanctions finalized against nursing care facilities in the past month resulting in a total of $31,762 in fines.

“The Department of Health continues to investigate all complaints made – in fact, this month we investigated more than 280 complaints,” Acting Secretary of Health Alison Beam said. “We continue to work with facilities to ensure all building safety and patient care standards are maintained and take action when necessary. Our goal is to make sure all nursing homes are able to provide the best care and can best protect our most vulnerable, especially as COVID-19 continues to be a threat in our communities and within these congregate living settings.”

Individuals with complaints about a nursing home can file a complaint with the department in several ways. Complaints can be made anonymously by calling 1-800-254-5164, filling out the online complaint form, emailing c-ncomplai@pa.gov or sending the complaint in the mail to the department.

The inspections include information on nursing home patient care and building inspections. If a facility is cited for not following regulations during the survey, it must submit a plan of correction that includes what will be done to fix the issue(s) and a completion date for the resolution. The department will conduct a surprise follow-up inspection to ensure issues are resolved. Surveys are posted to the website 41 days after the survey is completed.

The Department of Health also conducts surveys on behalf of the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS). These surveys include federal certification and recertification, complaint surveys, building safety surveys and others.

The department also may issue sanctions that could include a civil penalty, a ban on admissions, a license being revoked, or a facility being put on a provisional license, which requires, among other things, being subject to additional inspections. A provisional license can be renewed no more than three times. The department can return the facility to a regular license if it is satisfied that all issues have been corrected and it is warranted.

The department maintains a searchable database, which allows the public to view patient care surveys, building safety surveys, size of the nursing home, type of ownership and additional information about each of the nursing homes in the state. The department oversees 692 nursing homes with more than 88,000 beds in Pennsylvania, in addition to other facilities, including hospitals, ambulatory surgical facilities, home care agencies and others.

The Wolf Administration has taken a three-pillar approach to protecting the vulnerable residents living in nursing homes and other long-term living settings from COVID-19:

  • Ensuring resident safety through testing, education and resources;
  • Preventing and mitigating outbreaks; and
  • Working in partnership with state agencies, local health departments and long-term care facility operators.

Additionally, the Department of Health receives vaccine allocation for 66 counties across Pennsylvania. Philadelphia County receives its own allotment. All nursing homes enrolled in the Federal Pharmacy Partnership within the DOH jurisdiction have completed their first, second and third vaccine clinics through Walgreens and are 98 percent finished with the third clinics offered through CVS. While the vaccine is not mandatory, it is strongly encouraged by all to best protect against COVID-19. To date there have been 397,777 residents and staff vaccinated among long-term care and other facilities through this federal program.

While residents and staff at skilled nursing facilities are receiving vaccine, it is essential that everyone remain vigilant regarding the potential spread of COVID-19 in congregate care facilities. Data regarding long-term care facility (LTCF) cases can be found on the department’s LTCF data page.

More information regarding case information for all nursing homes, guidance provided to nursing homes, the orders in place, fact sheets and frequently asked questions documents to assist in regard to what is being done by the state to assist nursing homes can be found on the department’s COVID-19 nursing home page.

You can find the latest guidance on nursing home visitations here.

While COVID-19 vaccine supply from the federal government remains limited, the Department of Health is working to ensure the vaccine is provided in a way that is ethical, equitable and efficient.

The Wolf Administration stresses the role Pennsylvanians play in helping to reduce the spread of COVID-19:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
  • Cover any coughs or sneezes with your elbow, not your hands.
  • Clean surfaces frequently.
  • Stay home to avoid spreading COVID-19, especially if you are unwell.
  • If you must go out, you are required to wear a mask when in a business or where it is difficult to maintain proper social distancing.
  • Download the COVID Alert PA app and make your phone part of the fight. The free app can be found in the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store by searching for “covid alert pa”.

Updated Coronavirus Links: Press Releases, State Lab Photos, Graphics

MEDIA CONTACT: Barry Ciccocioppo - ra-dhpressoffice@pa.gov

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