For several years, Texas and other states have started to focus more on the safety and quality of their nursing homes. Numerous reports and research were published in 2017 in an attempt at answering the question – “Just How Safe are Texas Nursing Homes?” Research suggests the answer to this question may not be what families want, and need, to hear.
2017: A Bad Year for Texas Nursing Homes
Starting in January 2017, a series of reports about the status of Texas nursing homes revealed unsettling information. A report from the AARP stated that “Texas nursing home quality is shamefully poor”. Several media stories furthered that sentiment as reporters described incidents involving abuse or neglect.
One of the most popular stories – and one that is used as a continuing example – was that of a nursing home resident who was recorded with feces on her hands. While being videoed, the resident’s nose was tickled, which caused her to scratch her nose with the feces-covered hand. Nursing home staff members can be seen or heard in the background laughing. The video was shared on social media, raising further questions about quality and safety.
After the media had gotten the attention of Texans, a number of other reports surfaced alleging abuse, neglect, and a shameful lack of intervention on the part of nursing home staff and administrators. In March 2017, Windsor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Austin was found to be in violation of four state and four federal health standards. These violations matched a number of staff- and client-reported incidents that had gone unresolved for months.
Any suspected nursing home abuse or neglect should be reported, no matter what the outcome is. Silence is not the answer to preventing or reconciling incidents of abuse or neglect. To learn more about how to document or report suspected abuse or neglect, contact Brown & Brothers to speak with one of our nursing home abuse attorneys.
Statistics about Texas Nursing Homes
In answering the question of just how safe nursing homes really are, we must look at data and determine where the problems really lay. Here is a selection of some of the most recent data gathered about Texas nursing homes:
- The Dallas Morning News reported that, between 2010 and 2014, deficiencies resulting in citations among Texas nursing homes increased by 20 percent. The number of severe infractions increased by three percent.
- In 2014, nonprofit Families for Better Care ranked Texas 51st out of 51 states (including Washington, D.C.), giving it a grade of “F”.
- There are approximately 1,200 long-term care facilities in Texas, of which 25 percent have been cited for serious deficiencies. That accounts for at least 306 facilities with serious standard deficiencies.
- In 2017, the AARP identified a total of 766 severe violations in 2015 among Texas nursing homes. These violations included actual harm or immediate jeopardy.
Aside from trouble inside the nursing home, there is also concern about how standards violations or reports of abuse or neglect are being handled. There is a trend indicating that regulators are not taking action to stop or prevent abuse and neglect from occurring. Consider the following:
- In 2015, inspectors issued 17,466 violations, but only 40 enforcement actions were taken.
- In 2014, there were 18,900 infractions, but only 39 enforcement actions.
- In 2013, approximately 19,000 infractions were reported, but only 11 enforcement actions were taken.
- During 2014 and 2015, 320 long-term care facilities accounted for 94 percent of all violations. Texas state officials collected fines from only 22 of those facilities.
With so many infractions, and many facilities being labeled “repeat offenders” advocates want to know why facilities are not being held accountable. Some officials at AARP believe that part of the problem is the way the state classifies violations. Using a grade-scale system, infractions are graded, but a grade of E may indicate a pattern of potential problems or incidents, but may not fully address the severity of what is happening inside the facility.
Is Reform the Answer?
One of the most challenging aspects to the nursing home abuse problem in Texas is the fact that legislators have made it extremely difficult for victim’s families to pursue justice. Tort reforms in the early 2000’s helped restrain malpractice claims, which reduced insurance premiums and attracted healthcare providers to the state. At the same time, tort reforms made it more expensive to pursue a malpractice claim, leaving only a handful of law firms in Texas that can, or will, accept malpractice cases.
Because nursing home abuse often falls under the umbrella of medical malpractice or negligence, these tort reforms had a significant impact on what families can do to protect their loved ones’ legal rights. Increased requirements to prove these cases also make it more difficult to move cases ahead.
There does appear to be some light at the end of the tunnel however. In June 2017, the Texas Legislature developed a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers, which passed House Bill 2025. HB 2025 would crack down on nursing homes with infractions that continue to go unpunished. It would also make it easier to impose fines and enforce payment of said fines in a timely manner.
Even with positive changes and some light, advocates still warn that more work and reform is needed to really address the significance of this statewide problem.
Helping Families Recover from Abuse or Neglect
Between 2010 and 2014, severe violations at nursing homes across the U.S. declined by 16 percent. Unfortunately for Texas numbers weren’t as positive, and many nursing home residents are still exposed to substandard treatment, abuse, or neglect.
At Brown & Brothers, we work with clients all over Texas helping them pursue justice for their loved ones. Nursing home abuse and neglect is disturbing and completely unacceptable. Our goal is to ensure that you and your loved one’s legal rights are upheld and justice is served. Contact Brown & Brothers by filling out our online form and one of our skilled attorneys will contact you to get started.