State Resumes Annual Inspections of California Nursing Homes

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By Amita Sharma, KPBS, May 18 2021

Above: In this Dec. 5, 2019, file photo, a woman walks to her room at a senior care home in Calistoga, Calif. PHOTO BY ERIC RISBERG / ASSOCIATED PRESS

Annual inspections of California’s 1,100 nursing homes have resumed after a pandemic-induced, year-long hiatus.

And anecdotal evidence suggests the inspectors have much work to do as they re-enter facilities.

Aired 5/19/21 on KPBS News Listen to this story by Amita Sharma.

“Conditions in many facilities across the state have grown incredibly dire over the course of the pandemic and if anything, are as bad as they’ve ever been right now,” said Mike Dark, staff lawyer with California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform.

Dark attributed those conditions to the absence of family members of nursing home residents, who weren’t allowed in the facilities for nearly a year due to a coronavirus lockdown.

The California Department of Public Health suspended routine surveys of nursing homes in March 2020, at the direction of its federal partner, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. At the time, advocates worried that the ban on family visits combined with the halting of annual inspections would worsen care at the facilities.

Families and friends of nursing home residents have long served as both caregivers and watchdogs for neglect and abuse.

Dark said as family members returned for visits earlier this year, they discovered that issues with care that might have been flagged quickly were allowed to fester.

“There were not enough staff to make sure people are clean and bathed,” he said. “There’s not enough staff to make sure people aren’t developing bed sores. These are problems that have spread across the state and it’s going to take a long time for Cal DPH to really get on top of this problem.”

In an emailed statement, the department said during the past year it still sent inspectors to investigate the most severe complaints.

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