- Associated Press - Sunday, October 11, 2015

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Kentucky’s nursing home industry is seeking relief from what it calls heavy-handed state oversight even though a recent review found multiple instances where its residents have been mistreated.

The review by The Courier-Journal (https://cjky.it/1MlJejQ) of more than 100 reports of state inspections of the state’s nursing homes over the past three years found multiple instances where residents had been threatened, ridiculed, slapped, injured, or sexually abused.

Several residents died after what regulators said was poor or neglectful care, according to the report that also noted some of Kentucky’s 289 nursing homes have been fined nearly $16 million in the past three years for violations.

However, Kentucky nursing home representatives are protesting what they say is excessive regulation, arguing that statistics show Kentucky inspectors are more likely to cite “immediate jeopardy” violations than regulators in other states even though Kentucky nursing homes compare favorably in other categories, such as staffing or quality measures.

An immediate jeopardy violation is one that causes harm, serious injury or death, or is likely to do so, and carries fines of up to $10,000 a day.

Citing a “broken regulatory environment in Kentucky,” Betsy Johnson, executive director of the Kentucky Association of Health Care Facilities, appeared before a legislative committee in Frankfort last month to complain about what she said is overly strict enforcement of rules meant to ensure safety of residents. The association represents 230 of the state’s 289 long-term care facilities.

In a follow-up letter to the House-Senate Health and Welfare Committee, Johnson, a former state Medicaid commissioner, suggested such regulation leads to more lawsuits against nursing homes.

“We firmly believe that the current regulatory environment only exacerbates the toxic litigation environment in Kentucky,” Johnson said.

Advocates for quality nursing home care say the state must not weaken oversight meant to protect the 23,000 residents in long-term care facilities.

“That’s ridiculous,” said Bernie Vonderheide, a Lexington man who has worked for years for better conditions at nursing homes through his group, Kentuckians for Nursing Home Reform.

Brian Lee, executive director of Families for Better Care, a Florida-based nonprofit that advocates for quality nursing home care, said lawmakers should consider details of violations before accepting the industry’s claim of too much regulation.

For instance, a nurse at a Western Kentucky facility was accused of popping a hot pepper into a resident’s mouth, then laughing and calling the resident’s response weeping and crying out in pain “priceless,” according to the newspaper’s review.

“If you look at these inspections, all of them, all of them … this is serious stuff,” Lee said. “It’s not dust bunnies in the air vents.”

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Information from: The Courier-Journal, https://www.courier-journal.com


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