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The average New Jersey nursing home has about six deficiencies, ranging from food preparation to fire exits without proper signage and lighting to physical abuse, according to the latest federal inspection results.
Medicare'sincludes 2,027 problems found at 364 New Jersey nursing homes that accept Medicare and Medicaid patients during each facility's most recent inspection -- typically done in 2014 or 2015. That's less than the 2,113 deficiencies found during the prior round of checks in 2013 or 2014. According to the site, the average New Jersey home has 4.3 problems related to residents' health and 1.7 related to fire safety. Both of those averages are lower than the national rates of 6.8 health deficiencies and 3.3 problems related to fire safety.
NJ Spotlight has posted an interactive database you can use toby name, location, and deficiencies.
Most of the deficiencies found are considered to be mild: Just 2 percent of all those logged in the last round of inspections were ranked among the harshest, with 13 deemed to put residents in "immediate jeopardy" and another 37 called "severe." All but four of those related to the care and health of residents.
The number of deficiencies varies widely in the state, from none over the past three inspections at Emerson Health Care Center in Bergen County to 57 at Atrium Post Acute Care of Lawrenceville in Mercer, according to an analysis of the data.
Patricia Chiorello, vice president of marketing & business Development for Atrium, said the most recent inspection reports available were all conducted before November 2014, when Atrium Health and Senior Living took over management of what was then known as Lawrenceville Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.
"Once the center was under our management, we immediately employed our expertise and resources to address any deficiencies and to ensure that Atrium Post Acute Care of Lawrenceville would provide exceptional resident and patient care," she said. "The center is currently undergoing the first Department of Health and Senior Services survey since operations began under Atrium Post Acute Care of Lawrenceville ... We expect the results to show that previous deficient practices have been corrected."
Jonathan Mechaly, director of business development at Emerson, attributed its recent spotless record to its experienced nursing staff, strong administrative staff that is constantly conducting care audits, and 40 years of family ownership.
"The nurses have been here so long, everyday care is properly documented and patients are well-monitored," he said. "We are not perfect. Accidents do happen, but when they do, we disclose them immediately to the proper authorities and to the patients' families."
Quality of nursing homes continues to be a growing concern as the number of people living in them continues to rise -- and will keep doing so as baby boomers to move into their 60s and beyond. According to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, 47,277 people lived in New Jersey nursing homes in 2012, the most recent year for which data is available.
New Jersey's nursing homes are often near capacity, with 87 percent of certified beds occupied in 2012, according to Medicare's 2013 Nursing Home Data Compendium.
State inspectors visit each nursing home about once a year to check the care patients are receiving and their safety according to regulations that cover resident's rights, housekeeping, staffing, and quality of care. When they find problems, nursing homes are required to create corrective-action plans. Serious violations can prompt return visits to check whether the issues have been resolved. Inspectors also visit homes to investigate complaints from residents or family members.
"We survey following strict protocols, using teams of trained professional staff," said Donna Leusner, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Health. "The results of the surveys are used as source data for the CMS Five Star Quality Rating System."
Inspection reports are public, so anyone can view them. In addition to housing the reports, Nursing Home Compare also rates facilities on a five-star system that takes into account, in addition to inspections, staffing and quality measures that include residents' pain levels and weight loss.
"You can use five star as part of your information when researching a nursing home," Leusner continued. "Five star was developed to help consumers, their families, and their caregivers compare nursing homes and identify areas about which they may want to ask questions."