No. 252



In the event you do not already know, here is some sad news that should be of interest to you. A recent General Accounting Office report shows that one-fourth of the nations approximate 17,000 nursing facilities housing approximately 400,000 residents have deficiencies causing actual harm to residents or placing them at risk of death or serious injury.

This information was sent to me recently by Jackie Shifflet who lives in Springfield, Missouri and is a member of the National Citizens Coalition for Nursing Home Reform and the Missouri Coalition for Quality Care. This memo titled, To All Concerned was five and one-half pages of documented abuses and deficiencies by some members of the nursing home industry.

At this point I want to be crystal clear. I learned a long time ago not to paint with a broad brush and condemn everyone in any given industry because that would be dead wrong. In this case, there are thousands of nursing home owners, managers and employees who are doing an outstanding job and they are not part of what I am going to pass along.

This reason I am willing to get involved is because its something that affects all of us in one way or another, whether we are a relative, friend, or we, ourselves become dependent upon others for our care. I might add, since this memo is five and one-half pages, if you would like a copy, drop me a note and I will be happy to send it to you.

The major problem stems from those who have the philosophy to Take everything you can get and give as little in return as possible. When you have the CEOs of several major nursing home corporations getting a salary of over a half million dollars, thousands, and millions in some cases in bonuses, plus stock options or retirement perks and most of their employees being over worked, under appreciated and paid minimum wage, something is wrong. Whats wrong is greed and they wont change unless they are forced to.

Its also a matter of public record that many nursing homes have been cited for Medicare fraud and in some cases billing up to $600 per hour for therapy services because of weaknesses in Medicares payment rules and lack of guidelines. This is costing taxpayers millions and millions of dollars. State averages for physical, occupational and speech therapists salaries range from about $12 to $25 per hour.

There have been many initiatives for reform in both Congress and state legislatures. But for the most part they have been very unsuccessful. You may ask why? The industry has a number of political action committees that make regular donations to friendly legislators and statewide officials and as a result, no significant reforms have come to pass. The lawmakers could make a real difference in health care if they really wanted to.

The answers to many of the problems in the nursing home industry are not easy but they are attainable. As Ms. Shifflet says and I agree, perhaps more publicity about nursing home noncompliance might shame offenders in the industry into correcting some problems. Over the years I have found that good, decent, kind hearted people will do whats right simply because they know its the right thing to do. Others will not. The only way these people will make changes to do what is right is if they are forced to.

While Im not an authority on this subject, I do care about the thousands of older Americans who are in need of better care. Lets hope and pray that some reforms will be forthcoming that will make a difference.(EDITOR'S NOTE: Jim Davidson is a motivational speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034.)