Patients in a nursing home setting, and especially a skilled nursing facility, expect that the care they get will help them recover or maintain their health. Unfortunately, new evidence indicates that this is not true for many patients. In fact, some skilled nursing home facilities are actually causing their patients harm.
When a nursing home fails to provide adequate care to its long- or short-term residents, that facility can and should be held legally responsible for the consequences of its failures. An experienced nursing home abuse lawyer can assist patients and family members who have experienced mistreatment in nursing homes.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently conducted a study of skilled nursing home care to determine how facilities were performing in regard to patient safety. The study was focused on the care provided in nursing homes for up to 35 days after patients were discharged from acute care hospitals. It is common for patients discharged from hospitals to go temporarily into nursing homes for a period of recovery and rehabilitation until they are able to return to their homes.
Researchers randomly selected 653 Medicare patients from more than 600 different facilities to determine if the skilled nursing care provided was adequate. The medical records of the selected patients were reviewed by doctors working with the Inspector General’s office. According to Pro Publica, the physicians found that the facilities were making major mistakes. In fact:
- Around 22 percent of patients suffered events that caused them to experience lasting harm.
- Around 11 percent of patients were the victims of mistakes or poor care that caused them temporary harm.
- Around 1.5 percent of patients died as a result of the poor care that they received. Although many of the patients who perished did suffer from multiple illnesses, their prognosis was for survival until they received the substandard care in the nursing facility.
Unfortunately, this data overall showed that as many as one-third of patients under skilled nursing care were hurt because of medication errors or other types of mistakes that were made during treatment. In total, 59 percent of the errors and injuries were considered to be preventable, and more than half of the patients who were harmed had to be readmitted to hospitals. This came at a cost of $208 million over the course of the month that was studied.
Clearly, this is a massive economic cost, coming in at around 2 percent of total Medicare spending. It also imposes tremendous emotional and physical costs on the affected patients and their family members. In some cases, patients may never recover or will need much more intensive treatment simply because the nursing facility failed to live up to its obligations to provide quality care.
Those who are victims should take legal action to recover compensation from the nursing facilities that fail them. Monetary damages may be available for medical costs, lost income, pain and suffering, emotional distress and wrongful death. A reputable attorney can provide invaluable assistance to these victims.