Wichita Eagle, Feb. 12, 2002
Posted on Tue, Feb. 12, 2002
Wichita nursing homes get an 'F'
A survey says local facilities are the nation's worst, but state officials say that reflects the strenuous nature of its inspections.
By Karen Shideler
The Wichita Eagle
Wichita is the nation's worst place to be in a nursing home, according to HealthGrades, an organization that reports on the quality of health-care facilities nationwide.
But state health officials say that doesn't mean nursing home residents are at risk, or that Wichita's nursing homes are bad. Instead, they say, the numbers reflect the diligence with which inspections are carried out in Kansas.
HealthGrades analyzed four years of health inspection and complaint reports to determine the best and worst cities for nursing home care. Monday, it released the results, which cover the years ending Dec. 31, 1997. Those are the most recent years with available data.
Wichita was at the top of the list, with 80 percent of the its nursing homes having four or more "actual harm" violations in the past four years. In contrast, 57 percent of the facilities in Nashville, Tenn., had no actual harm violations.
Actual harm violations mean that a Medicare or Medicaid regulation was violated and that a resident's care was compromised in some way as a result. Almost one-third of all nursing homes in the United States had at least one actual harm violation in the past 12 months, HealthGrades said. In Kansas, the figure was 32.7 percent.
Kansas nursing homes are inspected regularly by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. They also are inspected when a resident, family member or other third party files a complaint. The HealthGrades report is based on both sorts of inspections.
The report should be reason for concern in Wichita, said Peter Fatianow, a HealthGrades spokesman.
"We looked at every city in the country that had 20 or more nursing homes. There's something going on there" in Wichita, Fatianow said.
But Joe Kroll and Mike Heideman of KDHE and Gloria Simpson, a regional long-term-care ombudsman for the state, said each state has its own inspectors, so the information being compared might not be the same, even though all inspectors use the same federal regulations.
In Kansas, a recent Legislative Post-Audit report on nursing home inspection found no fundamental flaws in the process. "We're doing a good job of citing deficiencies," Kroll said.
HealthGrades primarily provides information for insurance, risk management and other business interests; it sells reports on nursing homes.
Other groups have free information for consumers. Medicare publishes the results of nursing home inspections at www.medicare.gov/
NHCompare/home.asp. Another group, Member of the Family, has a nursing home watch list at www.memberofthefamily.net/ks.htm.
Of the 27 Sedgwick County nursing homes on the Medicare site, 16 had actual harm violations in their most recent inspection.
Severity of the violations are rated on a 1 to 4 scale, with 1 being the least serious. Violations rated 3 or 4 are actual harm violations. Violations can range from actual abuse of a resident to a staff member's failure to wash his or her hands when necessary.
In the most recent round of inspections, two of the Sedgwick County nursing homes had no violations at all. One home, Wichita Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center, had 51 violations
Rhody Burnett, the center's administrator, said Medicare's report is a year old. A more recent survey, in November, found only 17 violations
, "significantly less than a year ago," she said.
The average number of violations for a Kansas nursing home is six, the site says; nationwide, the average is five.
Reach Karen Shideler at 268-6674 or firstname.lastname@example.org