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Department of Health highlights August 2020 nursing home inspection, sanction information amidst COVID-19 pandemic

In the August 2020 report, Pennsylvania Department of Health nursing home surveyors conducted 635 inspections of nursing homes, including 379 complaint investigations. Of these, 522 were COVID-19 specific. In addition, nine sanctions were finalized against nursing care facilities, which included the issuance of two provisional licenses and civil penalties totaling $84,125.

Individuals with complaints about a nursing home can file that complaint with the department in several ways. Complaints can be made anonymously by calling 1-800-254-5164, filling out the online complaint form, emailing or sending the complaint in the mail to the department.

The number of newly reported long-term care facility (LTCF) deaths due to COVID-19 has decreased, as reflected in the LTCF graphs on the department’s LTCF data page. New cases have remained steady as facilities continue to test where outbreaks are occurring through mandated universal testing. All DOH-licensed nursing homes and DHS-licensed facilities completed universal testing before the state’s deadline.

The inspections, called surveys, include information on nursing home patient care and building inspections. If a facility is cited for not following regulations during the survey, it must submit a plan of correction that includes what will be done to fix the issue and a completion date. The department will conduct a surprise follow-up inspection to ensure the issue is resolved. Surveys are posted to the website 41 days after the survey is completed.

The Department of Health also conducts surveys on behalf of Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS). These surveys include federal certification and recertification, complaint surveys, building safety surveys and others.

The department also may issue a sanction. Possible sanctions include a civil penalty, a ban on admissions, a license being revoked, or a facility being put on a provisional license, which requires, among other things, being subject to additional inspections. A provisional license can be renewed no more than three times. The department can return the facility to a regular license if it is satisfied that all issues have been corrected and it is warranted.

The department maintains a searchable database, which allows the public to view patient care surveys, building safety surveys, size of the nursing home, type of ownership and additional information about each of the nursing homes in the state. The department oversees 692 nursing homes and more than 88,000 beds within nursing homes in Pennsylvania, in addition to other facilities, including hospitals, ambulatory surgical facilities, home care agencies and others.