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Legal Review: “One Time Accidents” Can Result in Free Pass for Nursing Homes

By Medford personal injury lawyer Richard Grungo, who is barred and practices in the state of New Jersey with Grungo Colarulo.

At the end of 2017, the Trump Administration began the process of reducing and discouraging the levying of fines against nursing homes by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

The position taken by the administration was that these fines had caused nursing homes to take attention from caring for patients and focus instead on complying with regulations in order to avoid fines. Lobbyists argued that these regulations and penalties were reducing the quality of care for residents. The Trump Administration agreed and began the process of rolling back the penalties.

Penalties and fines were most often levied against nursing homes in situations where a patient was injured due to neglect or avoidable accidents, such as falls due to inadequate supervision. Or, where a patient had lost their life due to the negligence of the facility.

The use of fines and penalties for each incident was one of several ways that CMS could try and get a facility to comply with care regulations. CMS could also refuse to pay for newly admitted patients or impose penalties based on each day that a facility was in violation of a regulation.

Now, CMS has been directed to avoid imposing penalties when the incident was a “one-time mistake” — even if the mistake resulted in the death of a patient. If you have a loved one in a nursing facility, you have likely had concerns about the quality of care and one time or another. Learning about the roll-back of these regulations is undoubtedly not welcome news.

It is important to remember that there are other avenues for oversight. Most state health and human services agencies have ombudsmen that are responsible for responding to concerns of individuals or families of individuals in nursing homes.

The influence of simply raising a concern should not be forgotten. With these rollbacks, families will have to work harder as advocates for their loved ones to ensure that care needs are met and deficiencies are addressed.

“These kinds of rollbacks are not beneficial to the public,” said Richard Grungo, a partner with the law firm of Grungo Colarulo, which deals regularly with nursing home litigation. ” What these rollbacks do not eliminate, however, is your ability to try and hold a nursing home responsible for an injury or death suffered by a loved one. Nursing homes can still be sued for negligence and damages by injured parties and should not be allowed to avoid responsibility simply because one governmental agency has decided to reduce its demands regarding quality of care. You should never reduce your expectations for the care of your loved one.”

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