February 17, 2013

How to find nursing home inspection reports

A FRAIL SYSTEM

Families’ abilities to hold potentially negligent nursing facilities accountable have been diminished by a recent change in state law that bars records of abuse and neglect from use in the courts, the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism has found. The Center’s investigation also shows that some long-term care facilities are failing to report deaths and injuries, as required by law.

This project, A Frail System, explores those issues and offers families help in identifying which of the state’s nursing homes have been sued or cited for major problems.

In January, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services began publishing state inspection reports of nursing homes, assisted living facilities and other health care providers on its website. Records are available from July 2012 onward.

To access the reports, click here and select Provider Search. A user may search by facility name, location and type.

If the state found violations during an inspection, each report includes the severity level of the violation and a detailed narrative of events, often including statements from employees, residents and family members, notes from medical records and facility incident reports, and general observations made by the surveyor.

Inspection reports of federally certified nursing homes are also available online, from 2009 onward. The nonprofit investigative news organization ProPublica developed an interactive app to search this data, which it culls from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Lastly, state inspection records are available at individual facilities. Federal and state law requires federally certified nursing homes as well as non-certified residential facilities to post its most recent inspection report in a lobby or other accessible area. Facilities are permitted to charge photocopying fees.

Reports older than July 2012 are available from the state Department of Health Services; contact the Division of Quality Assurance at 608-266-8481. The agency charges 25 cents per page in copying fees, and may also charge for searching for records, retrieving files from storage and copying photos, depending on the request. For example, the agency billed the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism $441 for 201 records from six nursing homes and assisted living facilities.