LEXINGTON, KY -- Three Kentucky nursing homes, including one in Lexington, are on a list of 128 chronically troubled facilities ordered by the federal government to get closer scrutiny, reports the Lexington Herald-Leader in its Saturday edition.
But between Washington and Frankfort, where state inspectors are assigned to visit nursing homes, nobody in government thought to release the list to the public. Instead, an incomplete list of 52 poor-performing nursing homes was issued in a Nov. 29 press release by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. None of the Kentucky facilities was on that abridged version.
State records obtained by the Herald-Leader identify the Kentucky nursing homes as Cambridge Place in Lexington, Highlands Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Louisville and Baptist Convalescent Center in Newport.
Critics, including nine U.S. senators, are demanding the release of the full list, which federal officials did share with nursing home industry lobbyists. One of Kentucky's leading advocates for nursing home safety on Friday said there is no excuse for government secrecy once problems have been identified that put elderly patients at risk, the newspaper reports.
"We may have a loved one in these nursing homes, or we may be considering one of these nursing homes for a loved one, and we have a right to know if our government is aware of serious and chronic problems," said Bernie Vonderheide, president of the watchdog group Kentuckians for Nursing Home Reform.
Federal and state officials said they didn't intend to conceal anything, but they acknowledged that public disclosure of the "Special Focus Facility list" -- the first of its kind -- could have been handled better.
CMS spokeswoman Mary Kahn said her agency disclosed only the names of nursing homes that have been troubled for several years and show no evidence of reform. CMS left it to state inspectors to release the full list if they chose. In Kentucky, the Cabinet for Health and Family Services received no requests for the full list, so it didn't release it, said spokeswoman Gwenda Bond.
All of the listed nursing homes consistently provide poor patient care and must be inspected twice a year instead of once, according to federal officials. The facilities are known to "yo-yo" in and out of compliance. They briefly fix their problems after failing one inspection, only to relapse into the same problems months later, reports the Herald-Leader.
Of the three Kentucky nursing homes:
• Cambridge Place, a 118-bed facility, was cited in the past year for 16 health deficiencies -- nearly three times the state average -- including failure to hire only people with no criminal history of abuse, mistreatment or neglect, or failure to report acts of abuse, mistreatment or neglect; failure to provide residents with care and services necessary to get the highest quality of life possible; and failure to notify doctors and family members about patients' injuries and illnesses.
Beth Smith, administrator at the Lexington nursing home, said she expects her facility to be removed from the list in the next year, the newspaper reports.
"We have shown improvements," Smith said.
In addition to the chronic problems, the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services is investigating a specific complaint at Cambridge Place, although the details cannot be released at this time, cabinet spokeswoman Bond said. Smith said she could not comment on that, reports the Herald-Leader.
Copyright: The Lexington Herald-Leader
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