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Editorial: Solution must be found for nursing homes
A steep rise in civil penalties levied against Kansas nursing homes during a four-year period certainly seems a bit puzzling. The total for 2016 reached $4.6 million compared to just $52,000 for a 2012, a vast difference reached in a brief period ...
The issue has touched off considerable debate in the StatehouseProponents of Kansas nursing homes contend the industry is subject to far too much oversightThose who advocate for patient care demand that safeguards be in place for some of the state’s most vulnerable citizens.Points both sides make are valid.Nursing homes must be subjected to a system that adequately monitors operations to prevent mistreatment of the elderlyThese are facilities entrusted to care for elderly residents, many of whom suffer from dementia.Such care often cannot be provided at home by loved ones, who must then go through the agonizing process of admitting a direct relative, often a mother or father, into a facility licensed to administer, in some cases, both custodial and skilled care.The level of trust placed in a provider demands that facilities be capable of meeting guidelines and passing inspectionsThat monitoring is conducted by Kansas Department of Aging and Disability Services, though apparent staffing shortages within that agency have sometimes delayed inspections at required intervals.Nonetheless, the sharp increase in fines and citations stemming from federal regulations would suggest nursing homes have been unfairly targetedWhile there is a definite need for regulatory oversight, as evidenced by despicable mistreatment of patients detailed in some nursing home surveys conducted by KDADS, fines that have been levied threaten to close some state facilities and provide even fewer options for the elderly to receive proper care.A first step is for the state to properly fund KDADS so that sufficient surveyors can be recruited to avoid delays in inspectionsThe state requires that surveyors be registered nurses, though the pay offered is not considered competitive and contributes to turnover.Accordingly, the U.SHealth and Human Services Office of Inspector General found last September that Kansas inspectors did not adequately follow up on about half of deficiencies found in nursing homes.If the state, which is already pressed to find budgetary solutions, cannot properly fund an inspection system, independent associations must be contracted.The nursing homes obviously need proper monitoringYet the nursing homes cannot afford to be unfairly regulated out of business after paying an additional 9,000 percent in fines over a five-year period.Both sides in this debate regarding oversight of nursing homes present compelling pointsYet both sides must also realize a fair process must be attained in order to ensure proper care for those admitted to the homes and to ensure the homes can remain operational for those in need of care.
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