The Associated Press shed light on a new report by the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services exposing major gaps in nursing home preparedness. These gaps could lead to many of the same horrific events that followed Hurricane Katrina where "a Houston Chronicle investigation found that at least 139 nursing home residents died during the hurricane or its aftermath." Many died in their beds.
Six years after Katrina, nursing homes are still failing and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and Administration on Aging (AoA) are turning their backs on their critical oversight and enforcement responsibilities.
"Of the 24 emergency plans examined by the federal government, 23 did not describe how to handle a resident's illness or death during an evacuation."
"Twenty-two had no backup plans to replace staff members unable to report for work during a disaster."
"Seventeen had no specific plan for working with local emergency coordinators to decide whether to evacuate or shelter in place."
As a partial solution, "the report recommends that Medicare and Medicaid add specific emergency planning and training steps to the existing federal requirement that nursing homes have a disaster plan. Many such steps are now in nonbinding federal guidelines that investigators found were disregarded."
Since Hurricane Katrina, thousands of policy recommendations have been published by dozens of government agencies, hundreds of nonprofit organizations and thousands of academics, all calling for systemic improvements to prevent a repeat of the problems that killed thousands and forever changed the lives of millions. Unfortunately, most of those recommendations continue to collect dust and few have been implemented.
"In a written response, Medicare chief Marilyn Tavenner agreed with the recommendation, but gave no timetable for carrying it out."
Ms. Tavenner can do better than that!
Join Disaster Accountability Project in calling on Acting Administrator Marilyn Tavenner and Assistant Secretary Kathy Greenlee to immediately implement these common sense recommendations and improve safety and preparedness for millions of nursing home residents nationwide.
Read the AP Story: http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/story/2012-04-16/nursing-homes-disaster-plans/54309490/1
Read the OIG Report: http://oig.hhs.gov/oei/reports/oei-06-09-00270.pdf
There is absolutely no excuse for complacency. It is an embarrassment for CMS and AoA that the Inspector General report released on April 23, 2012 repeats recommendations it made six years ago. That is plenty of time to improve the preparedness of nursing homes across the United States.
CMS and AoA must prioritize nursing home compliance with basic protocol to ensure emergency planning is comprehensive and updated.
Let's not wait for another major disaster that results in unnecessary loss of life. You have an opportunity to act and there is no good reason for delay.