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The Pennsylvania Department of Health has put together a task force that will work to find new ways to advance quality improvement in Pennsylvania’s long-term care facilities. In the wake of allegations of inadequate care in 14 nursing homes operated by Golden Senior Living between 2008 and 2014, Secretary of Health Karen Murphy, said the state will take “immediate steps” to address the issue in her announcement about the task force earlier this month. “I am pleased to announce the Department of Health has formed a task force to determine what additional measures can be taken to ensure enhanced quality in these facilities.”

Nursing home abuse is all too common across the United States. A study done by the staff of the Special Investigations Division of the House Government Reform Committee found that 30 percent of nursing homes in the United States — 5,283 facilities — were cited for almost 9,000 instances of abuse over a recent two-year period, from January 1999 to January 2001. Types of abuse demonstrated in nursing homes includes physical, sexual, emotional & psychological, neglect, abandonment, self-neglect and resident-to-resident abuse.

Today there are about 1.4 million residents spread across 17,000 nursing homes across the United States. Pennsylvania is home to about 700 of these nursing homes. According to Nursing Home Report Cards, a Families for Better Care non-profit project that analyzes, compares and ranks state’s nursing home quality by utilizing staffing data compiled by the Kaiser Health Foundation, performance measures from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ Nursing Home Compare, and the Office of State Long-Term Care Ombudsman complaint data, PA’s nursing homes were ranked as 26th best in the nation in 2013. In 2014, PA fell 6 spots down to 32nd in the nation with an overall grade of D. However, PA ranked among the best in the nation in Severe Deficiencies with only 14 severe deficiencies in 2014.

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Did you know that May is Older Americans Month? Each year the Department of Aging has a theme to celebrate Older Americans Month and raise awareness on key issues regarding older Americans. The theme this year is “Unleash The Power Of Aging.”

The idea behind “Unleash The Power Of Aging” is to recognize the older members of our communities who are active in the community. Much of the focus has been put on those older Pennsylvanians who are volunteers for many different organizations in our state.

Some of these programs include: Foster Grandparents, who help and mentor children with special needs and Senior Companions, who help the elderly who have lost their mobility so that they can stay in their homes. More information on these and other programs can be found on the department of Aging website at

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Did you know that many workers at skilled nursing facilities, over 80,000 in Pennsylvania alone, rely on government assistance in one form or another? The median wage for these workers in PA is $13.01 per hour as of 2014. Most of these workers, especially those with families to support, rely on public assistance programs to make ends meet.

Yesterday a minimum wage strike took place on Tax Day, in which tens of thousands of workers, many of them fast food workers, took to the streets to protest the low minimum wage in the country. This has been a highly debated issue recently that we will probably see as an issue to be debated in the upcoming election.

The debate is mostly focused on the effects this wage increase would have on our country. Workers are asking for a $15 minimum wage nationwide. This would majorly decrease the amount of workers who rely on public assistance. What would the effects of this be for the rest of the country? That’s not entirely certain. Many opponents of the wage increase are claiming that it will lead to increased prices for consumers, including an increase in the cost of skilled nursing facilities, as well as an overall loss of jobs.

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The Centers for Medicare Services are making some changes to the rating scale for nursing homes. Many nursing homes in PA are worried that this may cause their ratings to go down.

Currently the rating system for nursing homes is on a 1 to 5 star scale. With eleven new measures of quality expected to be included in the updated rating system, about one out of every eight nursing homes in PA could lose on or two stars under the new system.

Some of the new criteria will include staffing levels at skilled nursing facilities, which has been under scrutiny for some time now. This focus was intensified by a recent New York Times article highlighting the issue.

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Due to substandard care at over 30 nursing home facilities, Extendicare Health Services will now have to pay $38 million in a settlement. The investigation began when two whistleblowers within the company filed complaints that the company was billing Medicare and Medicaid for substandard care, and unnecessary therapy.

The violations Extendicare was investigated for include failure to follow safety protocols, failure to have enough staff on the clock, and failure to provide the appropriate care for residents.  Some residents may have been injured due to this negligence including falls, head injuries, bed sores, fractures, malnutrition and other injuries that are very dangerous to older residents.

The 33 nursing home facilities in question were located in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, Indiana, Washington, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

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On July 31st, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky of Illinois introduced Put a Registered Nurse in the Nursing Home Act or H.R. 5373. This new bill calls for strict mandates on nursing homes that receive Medicare and/or Medicaid reimbursements. If passed, this legislation would require these facilities to have one registered nurse on duty at all times.

The bill was recently passed on to the Health Subcommittee for review.

Currently, federal law only requires nursing facilities to have an RN on duty for a minimum of eight hours each day. This requirement fails to take into account the size of the facility or the health conditions of the residents.

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Every patient in a hospital expects good care and proper treatment. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Improper hospital care can result in serious injuries and even loss of life.

In May 2010, a Louisiana woman received serious burns after she underwent a routine procedure that required her to be placed under anesthesia. When she woke up from the procedure, she had several burns on her groin and buttocks. The burns were so severe that she needed skin grafts on the areas that were injured. The Louisiana woman is currently seeking damages for her mistreatment.

Hospitals should always make sure that their patients are safe by taking the proper safety precautions. Nobody should have to suffer from injuries because of poor treatment at a hospital. The injuries like the ones that the Louisiana woman sustained can also result in missed time at work as well as additional medical expenses. Injuries resulting from improper care can also ruin the reputation of a hospital and the businesses that they serve.

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We all want to believe that extra care and respect is shown toward the elderly in our communities, as they are among the most vulnerable of our population. To ensure this, a pilot-program launched in Philadelphia in 2012 has taken steps to guard against people who might be inclined to take advantage of those on social security.

According to an article on, the pilot program did background checks on those known as “representative payees” — a person who collects social security disability benefits for those who aren’t able to handle their own finances. If it was found that the representative payee had committed one of 12 crimes, including robbery, forgery, or identity theft, they were rejected as a representative of the individual seeking benefits.

In order to make the determination, the Social Security employees would access public records, or third-party databases. They would not have access to the FBI’s criminal database. The Social Security Administration feels the pilot-program has been a success, as screeners have flagged less than 1 percent of the 34,850 applicants.

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Friendship Ridge, the county-owned nursing home in Beaver County, is eliminating over 100 jobs after a contract was approved last month by employees.

According to an article on, the positions being cut include registered nurses and restorative nurses. Positions in maintenance, dietary, the hair salon, and recreation specialists will also be cut.

Comprehensive Healthcare Management Services LLC, a company out of Lawrence, NY, is purchasing the facility from Beaver County. The jobs were sacrificed in order to reach a contract with the new owners. The union that represents many of Friendship Ridge’s workers, SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, expressed their concern about the loss of jobs. In the article, they are quoted as saying, “While we were pleased to achieve a contract with the new owners that protects family-sustaining jobs, the elimination of so many positions is upsetting and unsettling. We have spent the last year advocating for our residents and working to make sure that they would continue to receive the high quality care and service they have always known.”

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The coroner is investigating the death of a resident that took place on Saturday at the Golden Living Center in Waynesburg, just outside of Pittsburgh. According to an article on, the woman’s neck became stuck between the mattress and the bed rail.

The coroner has ruled the death “accidental asphyxiation” according to the article. So far, the nursing home has not responded when asked when staff last checked on the resident. There’s been no response to questions about how often staff check on residents at night. But the home has offered its condolences to the resident’s family.

According to the article, Golden Living was last inspected by the Pennsylvania Health Department on March 1, 2013. In the last 30 months, the home had 16 “minimal harm” deficiencies, which is fewer than the state average.