Why Cuts to the Size of Fines for Health Violations in Nursing Homes Will Only Hurt Residents—Or Kill Them
Ensuring quality care for nursing home residents should never be a political issue. It should just be an important issue. Unfortunately, how to punish nursing homes for providing bad care (with sometimes deadly results) has become a political issue. And that fact has become evident in recent days with a decision by the federal government to cut the size of fines for health violations in nursing homes is a bad one. This is not a good decision. In fact, it is a dangerous one. As reported by NPR, the decision to cut the size of fines for health facilities and to alter the way the government punishes nursing homes actually gives “nursing homes less incentive to fix faulty and dangerous practices before someone get hurts.” Our St. Louis nursing home abuse and neglect lawyer agrees that this is a bad idea because it will only lead to further harm to residents.
When the goal of many nursing home owners is to increase profit at any cost, even at the expense of the health and safety of nursing home residents, the best way to prevent future problems is to hit the owners where they pay the most attention and that is their bank account. Reducing fines will not improve care at all, but it will increase owner profits.
And these are not just little changes in fines for violations, but rather drastic ones. According to federal records obtained by NPR, the average fine dropped from $41,260 in President Obama’s final year in office, to $28,405 under the Trump administration. This is largely due to how the Trump Administration switched from fining nursing homes for each day they were out of compliance (like the Obama Administration did), to issuing a single fine for only two-third of the infractions. While in both instances these fines would be substantial for a smaller nursing home, critics argue that for a larger nursing home, “it’s more likely a rounding error” than a real penalty that will change their behavior.
Cutting the size of the fines for violations in nursing homes is just a bad idea for resident safety. Here are some specific reasons why:
Risks to Residents from Understaffing – While some nursing homes adequately staff their facilities, far too many are not complying with federal law that requires nursing homes to have enough staff members to meet the needs of the residents. In fact, government research actually finds that “half of the nursing homes have low staffing and at least a quarter have dangerously low staffing.” In many cases, nursing home residents are injured because of the decisions made to intentionally understaff a nursing facility to save on expenses and thus increase the company’s bottom-line profit. This is a well-known problem too, as our St. Louis nursing home abuse and neglect lawyer recently wrote an article regarding how the federal government is pursuing nursing homes who are overstating their staffing levels which are dangerously low—particularly on weekends. Yet, the decision to cut fines for health violations is at odds with the actions to enforce staffing levels.
Nursing Homes are Being Paid by the Government (i.e. Tax Payers) to Staff Facilities at a Certain Level and Nursing Homes Aren’t Doing It – Nursing homes are required to complete a report on every resident called a Minimum Data Set that identifies the level of care each resident needs. That report is sent to the federal government which, in turn, provides financial reimbursement to the nursing home so it can staff the facility at the level it expects the residents require. But, in many cases nursing homes staff at a lesser level, building in profit and providing less care than the residents require. With a reduction in the fines, nursing homes will be able to pad their profit even more. In essence, nursing homes are being rewarded for having understaffed facilities. All this means is that nursing homes will earn more money while residents will continue to see less care and treatment that they desperately need.
Smaller Fines Will Result in More Staff Cuts – With less penalties for health violations, there will be more brazenness in staff cutting. This will translate into more injuries to vulnerable senior citizens who depend on this care and treatment by staff.
Reduced Penalties Reward Bad Care – A reduction in the fines will only result in worse care for residents. This means that facilities that are poorly performing by cutting corners will only be rewarded. In fact, it is almost like receiving a $13,000 raise since penalties have been reduced from $41,260 to $28,405.
Injured in a Missouri Nursing Home? Ask Us to Investigate
If you or a loved one has been seriously injured in a Missouri nursing home, call our experienced St. Louis nursing home abuse and neglect lawyer to learn how we can help you today. A reduction in penalties is likely to result in an increase in reckless, careless, and negligent harm to residents and senior citizens under the care and treatment of a nursing home.
We fully believe that businesses, including nursing home companies, should be in an environment that permits them to be profitable. . But, when your business is taking care of vulnerable and often helpless elderly people, you must do so without placing senior citizens at unnecessary risks and without putting profit over people. Sadly, this decision to reduce the level of fines will result in worse care which will result in more falls, more bed sores, more medication errors, more dehydration, more malnutrition, more broken bones, more brain injuries, and less staff to care for nursing home residents. It will also result in more forms of abuse, particularly physical abuse and sexual abuse which increase when the supervision decreases.
Call the Terry Law Firm by dialing (314) 878-9797 to learn more how we can help you or your loved one if a nursing home has fallen short on their promise to provide competent care and treatment. We will work to protect your rights and ensure a just result.