Editorial: Ohio lawmakers should confront ongoing problems as state lags in nursing home quality

A recent editorial by the Akron Beacon Journal:

The quality of Ohio’s Medicare-certified nursing homes ranks in the bottom quarter nationally.

Dozens of deaths and hundreds of illnesses from COVID that certainly could have been prevented are the latest troubling developments in an industry that cares for society’s most vulnerable population.

While nursing homes faced a monumental challenge from COVID, recent stories by the Beacon Journal raise questions about why they escape rigorous scrutiny for extended periods and why Ohio’s elected leaders don’t do more to expose and fix problems.

And, boy, are there problems.

• Regular health inspections dropped off during the COVID pandemic. The Beacon Journal found that almost half of the nursing homes monitored by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services have not had a regular health inspection since April 1, 2020.

Complaints can trigger an inspection, but the Ohio Department of Health, which partners with CMS on inspections, says that a COVID outbreak does not necessarily trigger an inspection.

• Nursing homes nationally have struggled with infection prevention and control before the COVID pandemic, according to government reports. In Ohio, nursing homes racked up 1,552 citations from infection control inspections from 2019 to 2021. Only Texas had more.

At a time when nursing home deaths from COVID were peaking nationwide, struggles with infection prevention and control had dire consequences in Summit County.

At one facility, staff members who had tested positive for COVID were not told of their results and continued to work. Three symptomatic residents stayed in their own rooms, each with an asymptomatic roommate.

Two other nursing homes in Summit County were included on a news organization’s list of 1,000 U.S. nursing homes with the most COVID-19 cases and deaths among residents and staff based on CMS data. Not surprisingly, CMS inspectors noted a variety of infection control mistakes at the two facilities, which are owned by the same company.

— Akron Beacon Journal, February 27