Nursing Homes Can Be Dangerous Places

As Des Moines personal injury lawyers, one thing we try to do is educate the public about certain dangers so that people don’t ever have to hire us. As our country continues to age and advancing medical science allows people to live longer, one area of increasing concern is the danger posed by many nursing home facilities. Just last week the Des Moines Register reported on a death at the Madrid Home nursing facility. We represent another family in a personal injury and wrongful death lawsuit against Madrid Home as well.

A February 2014 report issued by the Office of Inspector General of the United States Department of Health and Human Services paints an alarming picture of the current state of skilled nursing care in this country.  The study found that 33% of patients in skilled care nursing facilities were harmed during their stay, including infections and medication errors. Analysis of those patients' records caused investigators to conclude that 59% of the injuries and errors were preventable.

Most alarming, the study determined that 22% of patients suffered permanent harm, plus an additional 11% who were temporarily harmed. Worst of all, in 1.5% of the cases reviewed the patient died because of the poor treatment. These were people who'd been otherwise expected to live notwithstanding other physical or mental maladies they were suffering from.

The causes of the injuries and deaths varied. Common causes were failure to provide necessary medical care or delays in medical care, providing substandard medical treatment, and insufficient monitoring. The deaths involved problems such as preventable blood clots, fluid imbalances, excessive bleeding from blood-thinning medications, and kidney failure.

So what is the federal government doing about this problem? HHS's primary recommendation is that the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) should raise awareness of adverse events in nursing care and implement methods to promote nursing facility safety. That includes AHRQ and CMS collaborating to create and promote a list of potential nursing home adverse events, like those that the report found have injured and killed so many nursing home residents.  Staff identification of resident harm is critical to the success of resident safety efforts, giving them the opportunity to correct problems and reduce harm as well as to report problems contributing to events. Therefore the government should ensure that nursing home staff are able to identify resident harm events to prevent harm or worsening. Nursing facilities should also be encouraged to report such events to patient safety organizations. 

Health and Human Services also recommends that CMS should include potential events and information about resident harm in its quality guidance to nursing homes. And CMS should also instruct nursing home surveyors to review facility practices for identifying and reducing adverse events. In other words, what are nursing facilities doing to try to prevent these situations? Such steps might include instructing state survey agencies (like the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals) to include an assessment of adverse event identification and reduction in their compliance evaluations and connect related deficiencies specifically to resident safety practices. 

Please feel free to contact us if you need the assistance of a Des Moines nursing home injury lawyer.

Harley Erbe