DOH Not Publishing Nursing Home Inspection Reports That Families Need
A seniors advocacy group has called on the state department of health to reveal more about nursing home inspections than it presently does. The lack of disclosure involves both the state and federal governments.
Kokua Council, an organization that advocates for Hawaii’s kupuna, wants all inspection reports of long-term care facilities posted on the health department’s website.
Larry Geller, president of Kokua Council, worries that without these reports, families cannot be fully informed when deciding where to place their loved ones.
“These days with the virus rampant, you’d also want to know the extent to the outbreak in any home that you're thinking you're choosing. It's very difficult thing to do. But it's very important,” he said.
“You don't want to place a relative in a facility that had many violations, or is infected with a virus. So it's not easy. But the inspection report availability is critical. It's all the information that families have before they make their placement decisions.”
A 2013 state law mandates that DOH publish long-term care facility reports on its website within five days of an inspection.
The department said it continued to inspect nursing homes and publish the reports throughout the pandemic. However, Geller noted there has been no report published on the Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home where 27 residents died this year from COVID-19.
“That facility was cited seven times in three years and including for poor inspection control. Ideally, what we would like to see as the Department of Health sees the virus becoming very bad across the country, we need to protect our kupuna. We should prioritize going in and inspecting these facilities before the virus gets there,” he said.
“Why was there not an inspection up or two before the outbreak, especially with a fount of deficiencies, put in a plan of correction?”
The DOH published its last inspection report on the Yukio Okutsu home in 2019.
The department explained the inspections done in October after the facility’s fatal outbreak were federal surveys. And state law does not require posting of those reports on the department’s website.
But a DOH spokesperson noted that anyone interested in reading the federal surveys could ask the DOH’s Office of Health Care Assurance for copies.
Geller thinks that is unacceptable.
“According to their website, there's no report of any inspection at all. So to say we’re upset is one thing, but we're very concerned about protecting their kupuna,” he said.
“In these facilities, all it would take is another uninspected facility to have an outbreak and more people will die. This is something I think everyone should take very seriously.”
Federal reports on facilities like Yukio Okutsu are sometimes posted on the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services website. However, the last report posted for Yukio Okutsu was also back in 2019.
The latest inspection report for any Hawaii facility on the Medicare website was in early 2020.
For families choosing a nursing home, updated information is especially critical now.
DOH reported in August that nursing homes accounted for about 15% of the state’s total COVID-19 cases.