Pennsylvania’s Nursing Homes Draw Criticism From Safety Inspectors

April 22, 2019

When we place a loved one in a nursing home or other long-term care facility, we expect that the individual will be cared for professionally and competently. Unfortunately, this does not always happen, and patients’ safety may be threatened, or they may be neglected, mistreated or even abused.

Problems with nursing homes occur all too often in Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Department of Health recently announced the results of its 2018 nursing home inspections conducted to ensure owners and operators are providing proper patient care and building safety standards are being met. The results showed that there is much to criticize: after conducting 4,716 surveys at Pennsylvania nursing homes, the department had to issue 169 sanctions and finalize civil penalties totaling more than $2.3 million.

Nursing homes are visited for regular inspections and also when the department receives a complaint about a facility. Anyone who suspects problems or abuse at a nursing home can contact the Department of Health and file a complaint that will trigger an investigation by state nursing home surveyors, or inspectors. If a violation is found, the state may issue fines or take further actions—including removing patients from the facility if there is a safety threat.

If the complaint is serious and has resulted in injury, you may be entitled to seek compensation by taking legal action against an individual or a facility that has been negligent or done deliberate damage to your loved one.  However, your case must be handled properly to ensure you get the settlement you deserve.

How the Inspections System Works

When the Health Department conducts inspections (called “surveys”), it gathers information on nursing home patient care and building inspections. Inspectors can access the patients’ medical records and discuss the care with staff at the facility. The state Department of Health will issue a report ruling on whether the complaint is substantiated. If a care-related violation is found, the state may issue fines or remove patients from the facility if there is a safety threat.

Facilities cited for not following regulations must submit a plan for what will be done to fix the issue, as well as an expected completion date. The department will conduct a surprise follow-up inspection to ensure the issue has been resolved.

The department also may issue sanctions that include a civil penalty, a ban on admissions, a license revocation,  or being put on a provisional license that requires inspection every six months and can be renewed no more than three times. The facility can go back to a regular license only if all deficiencies are corrected. The department maintains a searchable database here  to view patient care surveys, building safety surveys, size, type of ownership and additional information about the nursing homes in Pennsylvania.

Reporting Nursing Home Abuse

Elder abuse and neglect is illegal in Pennsylvania. In 1997, the Pennsylvania Legislature mandated reporting of abuse on the elderly and care-dependent adults. The Pennsylvania Older Adults Protective Services Act (OAPSA) applies to all administrators and employees of long-term care facilities, older-adult daily living centers and personal care homes, as well as personal care and home healthcare workers who provide services in care-dependent persons’ homes. The Act also requires state police background checks for most long-term care workers.

Nursing home abuse in Pennsylvania should be reported immediately.  One way is to contact an ombudsman at the Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman:

Pennsylvania Department of Aging

555 Walnut Street, 5th floor

Harrisburg, PA 17101-1919

(717) 783-8975

See for ombudsmen in each PA county.

Anyone who suspects violations, abuse, or safety problems at a nursing home can make a complaint anonymously by calling 1-800-254-5164, filling out the online complaint form, emailing, or sending the complaint in the mail to the department.

Abusive conduct covered by law includes:

  • Illegal use of chemical and physical restraints
  • Unreasonable confinement
  • Physical or sexual harm, assault, harassment or abuse
  • Depriving a patient of adequate care, food, water or medication
  • Undue influence or coercion, intimidation
  • Taking property or material and financial exploitation.

Taking Legal Action

If you or a loved one was seriously injured or someone has died at a nursing home, you should seek legal assistance. The seasoned and compassionate Pennsylvania elder abuse attorneys at Wapner Newman offer a free consultation to examine the facts of your nursing home situation.  Our unique legal approach helps ensure that no stone is left unturned as we investigate and document every detail relating to your claim and do everything possible to get you the settlement you deserve.

Don’t let a bad nursing home situation get worse. Contact us online or call our offices today for your free consultation.