Long-Term Care Hospitals Operate With Little Oversight

The New York Times is out with an article about lack of oversight given to the more than 400 long-term acute care hospitals that operate in the United States. These hospitals, most of which operate as for-profit organizations, are supposed to provide care for individuals that are too sick for traditional nursing homes, but too stable to require regular hospitalization. According to the article, long-term care hospitals were much more likely to be cited for serious violations of Medicare rules than regular hospitals, and had a higher incidence of bedsores and infections.

While the care might be questionable, the no one will question the profitability of these health care providers. In 2007, the profit-margins on long-term care hospitals was 6 percent on Medicare patients, which regular acute-care hospitals lost an average of 6 percent on Medicare patients. How does that happen? In a presentation last month by Select Medical, an owner of several long-term care hospitals, to its investors, it revealed that it maintains its profits by monitoring staffing and lowering supply costs.

Those of us who represent victims of neglect in long-term care facilities know that “monitoring staffing” is another way of saying that it keeps staffing levels at the lowest numbers allowable by law. That usually means a lower quality of care. As for Select Medical, this approach is victimizing patients.

Medicare inspection reports, however, describe preventable patient injuries and deaths, and they portray Select’s hospitals as understaffed and with high turnover. In the last three years, inspectors have found 22 violations of care standards at 12 Select hospitals so serious that, if uncorrected, could lead Medicare to ban those hospitals from admitting Medicare patients.

The 22 violations represent only an estimated 2 percent of the serious violations Medicare found nationally, but similar stories can be told all over the country. Right here in Southern California, Riverside County’s Vista Hospital of Riverside has come under tremendous scrutiny by Medicare, and is under threat of being closed down. This law firm filed a lawsuit against last year for allegations of malpractice and neglect for the death of one of its patients.

The New York Times story – which can be found by clicking here – describes many instances of abuse and neglect it suggests is due to a failure to adequately regulate these hospitals; hospitals that frequently care for the sickest and most fragile patients.

The abuse and neglect lawyers at the Walton Law Firm represent seniors and dependent adults who have been abused or neglected in the nursing home, long-term care, and assisted living setting. Call (866) 607-1325 for a free and confidential consultation.

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