Patrick B. McGuigan
OKLAHOMA CITY – A national assessment of nursing homes has ranked Oklahoma near the bottom in terms of quality and care. Families for Better Care (FBC), a group based in Florida, gave Oklahoma an overall grade of “F” – same as in 2013 – and dropped the state from 48th to 49th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia.
The study assailed the state nursing home industry’s performance in direct care staffing, deficiencies, health inspections, and professional nurse staffing, assigning grades of C, D and F in those categories. Only in “verified ombudsman complaints,” where FBC assigned a grace of “B,” did the state get an above average ranking.
The advocacy group listed Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Arizona, Utah, North Dakota as the 10 best states for nursing homes. Trailing Oklahoma’s 49th place rank were Louisiana (50) and Texas (51). Others in the bottom 11 in the FBC ranking were New Mexico (41), Indiana (42), Georgia (43), Illinois (44), New York (45), Iowa (46), Missouri (47) and Michigan (48).
Other states in the region ranked as follows: Kansas (31) and Colorado (22).
In a statement from FBC’s headquarters in Tallahassee, executive director Brian Lee said, “Inadequate staffing contributed to the enormity of Oklahoma’s nursing home neglect. Residents are unable to be cared for properly if 80 percent of the homes have middling to below average professional nursing levels.”
“It’s shameful that nursing home owners and state officials have allowed nursing home care to worsen over the last year. Far too many residents are needlessly suffering from abuse and neglect,” Lee said.
Nearly all (98 percent) of the state’s nursing homes cited one or more deficiencies, a 7 percent increase in the past year.
Families for Better Care., Inc. describes itself as “dedicated to creating public awareness of the conditions in our nation’s nursing homes and developing solutions for improving quality of life and care.”
More information on the group’s critical analysis, released on Friday, is available here.
Wes Bledsoe, a long-time critic of Oklahoma government, including the state Department of Health which oversees nursing homes, has called for independent probes and a federal investigation into deaths in Oklahoma homes, what he describes as diversion of tax dollars, and failures on the part of state officials to enforce laws and regulations.
Bledsoe is critical of what he characterizes as “so-called tort reform” which has provided litigation relief to Oklahoma businesses. Bledsoe runs “A Perfect Cause,” a state-based group pressing for greater regulation of nursing homes. He has called on several state officials to resign over the state’s low ranking.
In an interview on KOKC Radio Monday (September 15) he encouraged listeners and those with family members in state nursing homes to call Gov. Mary Fallin, a Republican seeking a second term, and state Rep. Joe Dorman, D-Rush Springs, the Democratic party nominee to support investigations and prosecutions of nursing home operators and employees.
State monitoring of nursing homes is more robust than in past decades. While Bledsoe and other disagree, some analysts of state nursing homes say Oklahoma’s comparatively poor ranking results from comprehensive listing of deficiencies and self-reporting from nursing home facilities.
State Sen. Brian Crain, R-Tulsa, is conducting an interim study on a wide range of nursing home issues on September 29. State Rep. David Dank, R-Oklahoma City, has slated a House Interim Study for October 21.
Responding to the new FBC analysis, state Rep. Richard Morrissette, D-Oklahoma City, said, “We aren’t getting better, we are sinking like a rock. I am outraged, appalled, disgusted and amazed at our state for allowing such inhumane treatment of our beloved seniors and the disabled.” Morrissette plans to participate in Rep. Dank’s interim study of nursing home challenges.
You may contact Patrick McGuigan at www.CapitolBeatOK.com