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Senate Passes Bill that Creates Independent Review Process for Nursing Homes

On June 8, a Senate committee unanimously approved a bill that gives long-term care nursing homes another way to challenge state findings of deficiencies or safety violations, according to an article on the StandardSpeaker.com.

The bill gives nursing homes the option to participate in an independent review process to help resolve disputes with the Health Department. So a nursing home could hire a firm that specializes in quality monitoring of health care if it wants an independent review. The Health Department would maintain the list of firms that a nursing home could use. Or, the nursing home could participate in an existing dispute resolution process run by the department.

The Health Department would need to approve any independent recommendations made through this process before they could be implemented. If the department disagrees with a recommendation that a finding of deficiency be reversed, a written explanation would be required.

This is a welcomed change for many nursing home operators who feel the current dispute-resolution process is too one-sided in favor of the Health Department. Senate President Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati, R-25, Jefferson County, is quoted in the article as saying, “The Department of Health is both the judge, jury and prosecutor. It (the bill) gives nursing homes a fair shot at addressing the complaint.”

Some nursing home operators believe an independent evaluation will be more fair. Anne Henry of the Pennsylvania Health Care Association, is quoted as saying, “You get a total fresh set of eyes to look at the issue.”

In 2009-2010, the Health Department received and investigated more than 2,000 complaints about nursing homes. The most common complaints were maintaining residents at their highest practicable level, supervision and assistance to prevent accidents, sanitary food preparation, serving and storage, infection control and documentation of clinical records.