Starting January 1, anyone seeking a good skilled nursing facility for an elderly or incapacitated family member will be able to get valuable information to help them make their choice.
Similar to the letter-grade restaurant grading system instituted in Los Angeles County in 1997, nursing homes and skilled nursing facilities will now have to post a 1-to-5 star ‘rating’ from federal inspectors and share information on the county’s website.
In 2009, Supervisor Mike Antonovich proposed that the Federal Government’s grading reports of area nursing homes be added to the Los Angeles County website. The motion also encouraged the State to require that nursing homes post their five-star rating issued by the Federal Government’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to allow the consumer to make an informed decision about care. His fellow supervisors unanimously approved the motion.
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Assemblyman Cameron Smyth picked up the motion from there, and with fellow Assemblyman Mike Feuer, who represents West Hollywood, brought the measure to the Legislature. Assembly Bill 215 was signed into law in 2010 by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The rating system covers quality of medical care, staffing levels, food services, sanitation, bedsore mitigation and the results of licensing inspections. The system designates five stars for the highest rated facilities, down to one star for the poorest.
“To enhance the quality of care for our senior citizens, the state law I initiated requiring nursing homes to publicly display their federal five-star rating follows the success of our restaurant grading system,” said Antonovich, who also came up with the restaurant grades. “This posting system provides vital information for families to make informed decisions about the care for their loved ones and provides incentives for facility operators to establish and maintain high-quality standards of care and compliance.”
The only official “nursing home” in Santa Clarita is Santa Clarita Convalescent Home on Newhall Avenue, which received a 2 out of 5 star rating.
One of the things Antonovich’s spokesman Tony Bell said would clear up in January is information available on the website. Right now, no explanation is offered as to why the home received only one star out of five in the “health inspections” category, especially since the number of health violations are listed as “0.” In the category of Nursing Home Staffing, SCCH received 4 out of 5 and Quality Measures, 5 out of 5 stars.
An explanation of the “health inspections” category is linked to the home page. According to the county’s website, a team of trained health inspectors conduct onsite health inspections, on average, about once a year. Inspectors look at the care of residents, the process of care, staff and resident interactions, and the nursing home environment. The data from the last three standard health inspections and all complaint inspections that have been conducted in the last three years were used to calculate the rating.
“Our loved ones need to have quality facilities and quality care and those that are caring for them need to make informed choices about the care they receive and what facility they choose,” Bell said. “The Supervisor makes a point to regularly visit seniors and others in homes like this in the district, believing strongly that they deserve the best treatment. It’s very difficult to know inspection results, history and kind of care facilities provide without some sort of guideposts.”
“We believe the public has the right to know how the facilities rate, what the results of their inspections were to make informed choices. This is one of the most important decisions they (family members) have to make. This will make those choices easier.
Bell said that the new law will also allow facilities to demonstrate their high marks in the areas of health management, food service and the other elements.
Noting that the county does have the authority to close down a facility that doesn’t meet federal standards (and are required by federal guidelines to do so), he added that there are remedies in the grading system to show improvement.
“A less than perfect score may be followed by corrective action and additional inspection and the posting of a new and hopefully better score,” he said.
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