Why some nursing homes refuse to report problems

In less than a decade, America’s nursing homes have experienced a slew of bad headlines about allegations of neglect, staff-patient harm, and Alzheimer’s patients being left unattended. But as difficult as those stories are, perhaps worse is the real extent of the trouble going on behind closed doors.

Nursing homes are not required to provide the public with independent reports on the conditions in their facilities, and there are lots of ways—and legally permissible methods—to avoid having such reports released. According to Brian Antal, the director of technology and outreach for the National Association of Boards of Nursing (NABON), one of the reasons for this is that nursing homes are required by federal and state law to provide information on residents’ care and safety. If the government didn’t know something about this care, they may find the report a poor tool in their overall efforts to prevent and better manage resident health and safety.

Other reasons that nursing homes avoid reporting can be technical, not due to bad intentions. Releasing such records may actually help those that care for and live in their facilities, Antal explained, though that information may be of little interest to those who do not. If, for example, a child’s home safety was called into question because of a leaky roof, the information is not readily available to the rest of the public, because it’s a problem exclusive to that child.

These circumstances can be a double-edged sword for residents, though. Given that a nursing home’s sole function is caring for patients, it’s important that residents see consistent care.

“If you don’t show the best care,” Antal noted, “you’re not going to get it.”

In addition to not being required to release their reports, most nursing homes do not collect data on violations, and are allowed to keep records that can be compiled and shared within the sector.

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