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Problems In Nursing Homes Eyed

Oct 29, 2002 | San Antonio Express-News

More than 90 percent of Texas nursing homes don't have enough nursing staff, and 39 percent were cited for violations that could have caused serious harm or even death to their patients, according to a congressional report released Monday by U.S. Rep Ciro Rodriguez.

The report said 86 percent of the nursing homes were found in violation of one or more federal health standards during inspections between March 2001 and August 2002.

This is the second critical report issued by Rodriguez and Texas Democrats on the Committee on Government Reform. The new report shows conditions have deteriorated since the first study in 2000, Rodriguez said at a news conference.

But he acknowledged that state and federal funding formulas are a large part of the problem, and he appealed to nursing home operators to work with him, other state and federal officials and patient representatives to improve Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement rates.

"This is not about bashing the homes or hitting the staff," said Rodriguez, D-San Antonio. "The issue is, let's look at where we are and what we can do to move forward."

Nursing home representatives welcomed the offers of help, noting that Congress recently adjourned without addressing three measures that would boost nursing education and provide more money for Medicare and Medicaid patients.

"We hope that when Congress reconvenes in several weeks, Congressman Rodriguez will stand behind these major efforts in a very public way," said Tim Graves, president of the Texas Health Care Association.

Medicare funding was cut by 10 percent on Oct. 1, a move that will cost Texas nursing homes $98 million next year, Graves said. Medicaid already is underfunded by some $3.7 billion nationwide, he added, and Texas has one of the worst reimbursement rates, paying $95 per patient per day.

"That is $4 an hour to take care of some really sick people," Graves said.

The congressional report was an analysis of recent annual inspections and complaint investigations from Texas' 1,148 nursing homes that accept Medicare and Medicaid. It also examined reports on staffing levels.

The report said 443 nursing homes were cited for violations that could seriously harm or kill patients, including physical or sexual abuse and failing to provide proper medications.

It found that 94 percent of the homes failed to meet at least one federal staffing standard; 88 percent of homes did not meet standards for registered and licensed nurses.

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