No Sunshine on Surveys

I read that nursing home survey results will no longer be available for the general public to examine. Here, surveys used to be in a large notebook located in the front lobby. It usually took a while for them to be posted following the survey. State inspectors themselves told me in the past that it could take as long as three months. I never read the survey results that were here. The book was too difficult for me to handle and I would have felt quite strange asking to see them.

Eventually, surveys were available online and I would check them out there. After reading online survey results for 2007 published in 2008, I was surprised to find that the information was more difficult to understand than in previous years. They had number coding and cross-referencing was necessary to read the complete document. But residents were not identified, only the incident or infraction. I wonder if the surveys that were available at nursing homes were more easily understandable.

If consumers and family members were using the survey results online to make a decision about a nursing home for their loved one, they will no longer be able to do that. It seemed like a good system of checks and balances to me. Now the only way to see the survey results may be by court order. That could deter some lawsuits but it might encourage others.

Many years ago I was acquainted with a resident’s family member. When she and her husband were considering a lawsuit following her mother’s passing, she came to talk to me. I explained to them that a lawsuit would be lengthy and that it could consume years of their lives. I suggested that they be certain they were ready for that. I reasoned that it would not bring her mother back and that it could disrupt their lives. I do not know whether they sued or not.

With the Internet anyone, including a resident’s family member, can go online and complain about a particular nursing home. I have read a few entries with the facilities and commenter’s name included. Given that fact, it might be better if the public could read the annual survey results. Since they are done by a regulatory government agency, they should be credible.

Also, since the Bush administration put this new process in place, the Obama administration could decide to change it.

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