Health Department takes tougher stance on nursing home regulation


HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Nearly 90,000 Pennsylvanians live in more than 700 nursing homes across the state, and it’s up to the Department of Health to regulate those facilities.

Recently released data shows there are still some nursing homes with sanitation and accessibility issues. Others lack emergency preparedness plans, or were cited for not reporting abuse allegations to the state.

Health officials hope increased oversight will ignite change.

“In 2019, we have issued 21 provisional licenses and we have increased our fines to $2.1 million,” said Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine.

$200,000 of those were fines were from August alone. Health officials did more than 500 nursing home inspections last month.

Now, facilities must submit plans detailing how they will fix what they were cited for.

Those that got provisional licenses will have extra, surprise inspections.

“We want to make these meaningful so that they can create change within nursing homes, but not to be punitive,” said Levine. “We’re not looking to put anybody out of business.”

Levine says its all part of the Department of Health’s increased supervision of the facilities.

This year, it started releasing the data of its monthly inspections and sanctions.

While Levine says there’s no trend in a specific kind of violation or region where they occur, the number of complaints health officials receive has increased.

She doesn’t think its because nursing homes are getting worse, but believes its because the department is taking a tougher stance.

Plus, the state started accepting anonymous complaints.

“I think a lot of it is because of awareness and reporting,” said Levine.

Earlier this year, the national advocacy group Families for Better Care gave Pennsylvania’s nursing homes an “F” in its report. That’s a grade some state advocates, like those in the Pennsylvania Health Care Association, disagree with.

The Health Department is currently working with the departments of aging and human services, as well as the Long-Term Care Council to update the rules it enforces.

“Unfortunately, the last time that the long-term living care regulations were updated was in the late 90s,” said Levine.

You can find out what specific nursing homes have been cited for on the Department of Health’s website.

Anonymous complaints can be made by calling 1-800-254-5164, filling out an online complaint form, emailing or mailing the department.

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