Nursing Home Ratings Possibly Misleading - 8 News NOW

Nursing Home Ratings Possibly Misleading

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LAS VEGAS -- Inadequacies in the state inspection process for Nevada nursing homes may be leading to continual problems in facilities.

8 News NOW has discovered state inspectors can hand down serious -- even life threatening -- deficiencies and some nursing homes will still receive an average or above average rating.

Advocacy groups say this makes the process even harder for families to find what's happening inside long-term care facilities. A report last month showed Nevada nursing homes rank among the worst in the country.

TLC Care Center in Henderson is one of only two nursing homes in the state that received what's called an "immediate jeopardy" by state inspectors last year. That means a resident's life was in danger.

Last month, 8 News NOW spoke with a former volunteer that was let go from TLC. Elizabeth Olsen claimed she reported several problems and managers did nothing. TLC administrators say otherwise, calling their facility one of the best in the valley.

One nursing home abuse attorney says their rating shows big gaps in state inspections. TLC Care Center in Henderson is ranked average or above average in nearly every category by the federal government. The nursing home boasts excellent staffing levels and superior care. TLC Administrator David Campbell has his own family there.

"TLC is a great nursing home. My mother is here," Campbell said.

However state inspection reports show TLC was one of only two facilities in Nevada to receive an "immediate jeopardy" violation. It's a deficiency so serious,  inspectors say a resident's life was danger.

"No harm came to him. He came back perfectly fine. In fact, he said he had a fun day," Campbell said.

The violation stemmed from a man, prone to escaping, broke out of his room and got on a bus headed to a local casino. The state health office handed down a citation, but no financial penalties. State inspection reports show, nurses reported the man had been looking to get out "for most of the day" but "there was nobody who was watching him every 15 minutes" as staff is required to do.

"Well there was a point where he wasn't being watched 24 hours a day," Campbell said. "You know, our unit's safe. To be able to provide that level of staffing for everybody, it's impossible."

TLC has fixed the lock that allowed the man to get out and maintain the facility is not a jail.

"That's a common defense, we hear. Oh we can't hold these people prisoner, they have freedoms. What they're not telling you is that they should have trained staff to redirect people," said James Morgan, an attorney specializing in nursing home abuse.

He says staffing is the most expensive cost for a nursing home and the biggest issue. In addition, he says facilities are allowed to "self-report" their staffing numbers to the state.

"It's like letting the fox watch the hen house. You have nursing homes who want to look good, who want to get good ratings and they report that they have you know well above the average number of staff," Morgan said.

Morgan says most states -- including Nevada -- do not have enough state inspectors to get the full picture of what's really happening. It's a claim state officials say is untrue.

TLC provided some residents and family members of people who live at the home to vouch on the facility's behalf.

"I have found nothing wrong here. The nursing staff is experienced, they're good, they give my wife her medication when she needs it," said Maurice Levitus.

Rita Snyder has been at the facility for a year-and-a-half. She isn't concerned by some of the findings on the state inspection reports.

"No because things can happen wherever you are."

TLC points  says no nursing home is perfect, but advocacy groups and attorneys like Morgan say, there's much room for improvement.

8 New NOW has also learned nursing homes have a lot of time to prepare for state inspections. Attorneys and advocates say, managers pretty much know when inspectors are coming to the facility.

Nursing Home Reports

Another way to check out facilities is through Nursing Home Compare which is a section on Medicare.gov. You can get tips on what to look for to select a nursing home. Morgan also advises families to visit a care facility during off hours, such as weekends or evenings to see the staffing levels.

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