TOPEKA — Nursing home inspectors with the Kansas Department of Aging and Disability Services did not adequately follow up on half of the problems they found in homes in 2014, according to a federal report.
According to the report from the U.S. Department for Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General, KDADS also is behind on its standard reviews of nursing homes, which are supposed to happen every 15 months. The review is part of a series looking at state agencies.
The report found KDADS, the state agency tasked with reviewing nursing homes, did not always verify homes had made corrections after inspectors found problems. The report looked at 100 deficiencies at 79 nursing homes in 2014 and found KDADS did not verify corrections in 52 cases.
“The State agency’s practice was to accept the nursing homes’ correction plans as confirmation of substantial compliance without obtaining the required evidence of correction for less serious deficiencies,” the report says.
The report also raised issue with how frequently KDADS was conducting regular nursing home reviews. According to the report, the agency did not conduct regular reviews within 15 months — as required by law — for nearly half of the 73 nursing homes that had a regular review in 2014.
Republican Gov. Sam Brownback said he had not yet reviewed the report.
“I haven’t had a chance to look at it yet but will be reviewing it,” Brownback said.
KDADS spokeswoman Angela de Rocha said the agency had identified the problem verifying nursing homes’ corrections and changed its processes last year to comply with federal requirements. That change also is noted in the report, which recommends the state improve its practices.
The federal report pointed to a shortage in the number of KDADS employees who inspect nursing homes. The report says KDADS had 13 positions vacant out of 61 when officials did fieldwork in May.
De Rocha said the department now has 12 positions vacant out of 70, including regional manager surveyors and quality improvement surveyors.
Mitzi McFatrich, executive director of Kansas Advocates for Better Care, said she previously had asked lawmakers to look at oversight of KDADS and funding for inspectors.
“We’ve been knowing for a number of years that KDADS is getting further and further behind,” she said.
De Rocha said KDADS struggles to recruit inspectors, who can make more money elsewhere. She said the agency was conducting a study to determine what it would take to get more inspectors. In an email, she said the agency has been aware of the surveyor shortage and worked to reduce it.
KDADS Secretary Tim Keck said in a statement the department would take the issue to lawmakers during the next legislative session
“We are acutely aware of this problem and are working on a plan to increase the surveyors’ salaries, which we will take to the Legislature in January,” Keck said.
House Minority Leader Jim Ward, D-Wichita, called the report a failure “by the administration to perform basic oversight functions.”
Ward said he knew McFatrich had raised concerns about nursing home oversight, but said he was unsure what they were. He said he would like to hear from KDADS officials during the next legislative session on what they need in terms of resources to address the problems.
“This report says that our most vulnerable elderly are at risk,” Ward said. “Deficiencies are a fancy word for ‘there is a risk that needs to be fixed.’ ”
The report also found the state was missing evidence of corrections in 12 cases. The state said the software issue that caused the data loss and resolved it.
The report recommended the state improve its practices in obtaining evidence of problems being corrected, better protect data and develop a plan to get regular surveys done every 15 months.
In response to the report, the state said it had begun requiring evidence collection, fixed the data loss problem and been working to improve survey frequency.