From Marni Usheroff at the Los Angeles Business Journal
July 6, 2015
Local nursing homes are a big step closer to being watched more carefully by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
County supervisors last week approved a contract with the state that will provide nearly $15 million to fund salaries, bring in new workers and cover other expenses largely targeted at bolstering health facility inspections. The contract now awaits state approval.
The change comes after several audits and a quality review by the state found a backlog of incomplete complaint investigations, primarily for nursing homes, owing to a lack of funding and staff within the health department.
“We want to catch problems before they become a major problem,” said Terri Williams, the department’s assistant director of environmental health.
Williams, who oversees the health facilities inspection program, noted that the county has almost 400 nursing homes, more than one-third of the state total.
With amped-up resources, the department will be able to conduct the annual surveys that contribute to a nursing home’s Medicare rating, which rank facilities with from one to five stars, in a more timely fashion. A lag in updated results can be especially frustrating when new management turns around a poorly performing facility but must still shoulder somebody else’s poor results.
“A star rating is something that defines us in the community,” said Avi Saada, administrator at West Hollywood skilled nursing facility West Hollywood Healthcare and Wellness Centre. “To have a star rating from two years ago is not fair. With more staff and money, the annual surveys will be done on time.”
He said it also means more efficiency.
“There’s no point in submitting complaint allegations if they’re not handled on time,” Saada said.
But if the state approves the contract as expected, change won’t happen overnight. Even though the Department of Public Health has contingent job offers out to 66 new nurse evaluators, it would take about a year to train them.
In late March 2015, a group of US Senators, having received motivation from the US House of Representatives, restored the introduction of the PRIME Act, which looks to amend the Social Security Act and harden securities against Medicare and Medi-Cal fraud and abuse and raise fraud detection measures across the board and could prove to be a double-edged sword for the healthcare industry.