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Bill Aims to Improve “Shamefully Poor” Conditions in TX Nursing Homes

AUSTIN – The Texas Legislature could soon approve a bill to correct dangerous conditions in many of the state’s 1,200 nursing homes.

Senate Bill 932, designed to close loopholes in regulations and strengthen penalties for bad actors, is awaiting a House vote after being approved by the state Senate.

Its sponsor, Sen. Charles Schwertner, a physician from Georgetown, says studies show that 1 out of 4 Texas long-term care facilities is substandard.

“It’s very unfortunate that Texas is ranked the worst of the 50 states regarding the quality of nursing home care,” he states. “I believe it’s time to change that. I take very seriously our obligation to send a very clear and unambiguous message that we’re serious about protecting our most vulnerable citizens.”

A report by AARP Texas, entitled “Intolerable Care,” calls conditions in many nursing homes “shamefully poor,” and identifies thousands of serious health and safety violations.

Schwertner says the bill would require that the state’s Department of Aging and Disability Services inspect each nursing facility at least once every two years.

But Schwertner says the biggest improvement the bill would make is to change the “right to correct” rule, which, in theory, allows nursing homes time to fix a violation. In reality, he says it allows substandard conditions, and even abuse and neglect, to continue.

“The bill refines the progressive sanctions on the various types of violations,” he explains. “If nursing homes continue to violate various provisions of law, they can be fined in an increasing manner.”

Schwertner adds the bill is designed to give families confidence that their loved ones will be safe and well cared for in a nursing home.

“People realize they have loved ones – aunts and uncles, parents and grandparents – but they themselves could one day be residing in a nursing facility, and they want to make sure that the quality of nursing homes is improved,” he states. “I think that’s a universal, bipartisan issue.”

The measure is supported by the Texas Health Care Association, which represents the state’s nursing home operators.

Author: Mark Richardson – Texas News Service

AARP Texas Seeks Tougher Regulations for Nursing Homes

AUSTIN, Texas – A new report on Texas nursing homes calls conditions in many of them “shamefully poor” and has AARP Texas working with lawmakers to make changes. The AARP report, “Intolerable Care,” identifies severe problems in many facilities in Texas that need action by the Legislature to give state inspectors more ability to enforce regulations.

Amanda Fredriksen, associate state director for advocacy and outreach with AARP Texas, says the report points out that nursing homes in the Lone Star State have one of the highest rates of serious safety violations in the country.

“Basically, what we found is that among the 1,200 nursing homes we have in Texas, at least one in four had multiple serious violations,” she said. “Those serious violations mean that residents experienced actual harm.”

She says one of the biggest problems the study identifies is the so-called “right to correct” rule, which gives nursing homes time to fix the problem but often just allows a dangerous situation to continue. The study points out that the quality of Texas nursing homes was ranked last in the nation in a 2015 Kaiser Family Foundation study.

Fredriksen says AARP Texas is recommending that lawmakers give state inspectors a stronger hand in dealing with serious violations.

“We’re talking about bed sores untended, residents dropped and experiencing bruises and broken bones, people getting medications they shouldn’t be given,” she added. “Those kinds of violations really do warrant a more serious action by the state.”

She says AARP believes the state has a responsibility to assure the safety of nursing-home residents.

“When families make the difficult decision of putting a loved one in a nursing facility, they do that with the expectation that the facility, licensed by the state of Texas, is going to keep their loved one safe,” she explained. “In a number of facilities in Texas, that’s simply not happening.”

The AARP report found that in 2015, the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services cited nursing homes for more than 17-thousand violations but took enforcement actions in only 40 cases.

Author: Mark Richardson – Texas News Service