Canton Repository

April 25, 2002

Project compares nursing homes 

By PAUL M. KRAWZAK 
Copley Washington correspondent 

WASHINGTON — Almost one-third of the residents of one Ohio nursing home scrutinized recently by the federal government had
bedsores while another reported only 3 percent experiencing the problem.

The comparisons made public Wednesday show a wide range for other maladies experienced by residents of nursing homes.

The reports were part of a six-state pilot project designed to provide consumers with objective information on how well residents are doing in long-term care facilities.

“We’re empowering consumers with the information on how to get the best care possible for their loved ones,” Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson said as he unveiled the comparisons.

Thompson hopes people will use the data to ask questions about long-term care and “allow nursing homes to respond,” he added.

The Briarwood in Stow reported 31 percent of residents with bedsores, according to government figures. The Canton Christian Home reported only 3 percent with bedsores, giving it one of the best scores among Ohio long-term care facilities.

The Rose Lane Health Center in Jackson Township had a low score of 3 percent for residents in pain. But its score of 25 percent for number of residents who need more help with daily activities was above the state average.

And in Dover, for instance, the facility with the highest relative number of patients with infections was Hennis Care Centre, which had a 38 percent score. New Dawn Health Care Center had the lowest score for infections in Dover at 10 percent.

Along with helping consumers to make choices, the comparisons will spur nursing homes to improve their care, Thompson said.

Nursing homes are compared on nine measures of patient well-being, including percentage of residents who have bedsores, need more help from staff, have infections, have lost too much weight, experience pain and other indicators.

The lower the percentage score, the better a nursing home is performing, officials said. For example, bedsores, caused by constant pressure on one part of the skin, often can be prevented through frequently changing a resident’s position, proper nutrition and soft padding. A low percentage of residents with bedsores indicates that preventive action is being taken.

In an effort to alert Americans to the information, the agency is running advertisements today in 30 newspapers across the nation, including The Repository.

As soon as the ads run, the comparisons will become “very controversial,” Thompson predicted.

Representatives of long-term care and seniors organizations welcomed them. They said the information would challenge nursing homes to improve.

“Many will shine,” said Larry Minnix, president and chief executive officer of the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging, which represents nonprofit long-term care facilities. “Others will get out of business in light of this new day. Initially the road will be a little rough, but it’s the right road.”

Government officials and health-care workers cautioned that the comparisons are imperfect and are just one tool that should be
used to evaluate long-term care.

“This information is only one piece of the puzzle,” said Esther “Tess” Canja, president of the American Association for Retired
Persons. “It is no substitute for strong governmental enforcement of adequate quality standards. Nor is it a substitute for active family and community involvement in the care of nursing home residents.”

The comparisons are based on information reported to the government by nursing homes, which receive up to 90 percent of their reimbursements from federal and state health insurance and health care programs. Federal officials conduct spot checks and audits to make the sure the information is accurate.

The comparisons are adjusted to take into account nursing homes that have higher than average numbers of patients with more serious conditions.

The comparisons for the states in the project, including Colorado, Florida, Maryland, Rhode Island and Washington, are available by calling (800) 633-4227 or at an agency Web site:
http://www.medicare.gov