Nursing Home Inspections

All nursing homes are inspected on a regular basis. Both Federal and State agencies including the Federal Department of Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), State health and fire departments and state departments of human services inspect nursing homes. Nursing homes must meet a series of regulations established under both state and federal laws. The laws are implemented through regular inspections. These include basic fire and safety standards, basic health and sanitation of food preparation, levels of training of staff and the quality of physical and mental care by staff in the nursing home. These agencies also follow up on complaints about nursing homes.

Federal Inspections

Any nursing home that is being paid by Medicaid or Medicare must undergo CMS inspections. If the CMS determines that the facility is not meeting any of their obligations they may require changes and withhold payments to the facility until changes are made. In extreme cases the CMS may even intervene and place a temporary manager into the nursing home. If the facility is in constant violation and fails too many inspections the CMS will drop their certification and relocate certified patients to new facilities. In addition, nursing homes are usually also subject to inspections by the Federal Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA) to insure that the facility is fiscally sound.

State Inspections

Each state requires a series of licenses for any nursing home to operate. These include health licenses, safety licenses, business licenses and a range of other types of licensing. Each state and or local authority then performs inspections to insure that the facility is in compliance with their licensing. These inspections are often called "surveys." State inspectors who work for the States Health Department generally perform surveys. They check for compliance with both state and federal regulations.

When do Nursing Home Inspections Occur?

Nursing home inspections can occur at any time and generally the home is not notified in advance that an inspection is coming. A team of inspectors usually works together to perform the inspection. Team members include nurses and other health care professionals as well as safety experts. Inspections must be performed every two years on both the state and federal level so they usually happen every year unless there are problems with the facility.

Do Residents Contribute to Inspections?

Inspectors are usually only at a home for a few days but when they are there it is a good time for residents to contribute to the inspections. Nursing home residents live in the facility every day and their input matters a great deal to the inspectors. Moreover, the main reason for the inspections is to keep the quality of care high for the residents. Residents and their family members who feel there are problems with the facility should speak up and ask for an interview with an inspector while they are in the home. They can also call the state health department and ask when the next survey will be and ask for an interview. Nursing home staff members by law may not retaliate against you for venting grievances. Should this happen, contact the health department immediately.

In summary, nursing home inspections exist to keep the level of care in a nursing home high and to help protect the physical and metal welfare of residents. These inspections directly impact the running of the homes and they are very important to the nursing home and to the residents. Using these nursing home inspections gives both prospective and current nursing home residents a valuable tool to ensure good care.