Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Public Input Sought on Personal Care Homes

On October 12, 2007, the Times-Tribune (Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, PA) reported about a public session sponsored by members of the PA House Aging & Older Services Committee on the need for regulatory reform regarding personal care homes.

In an article entitled "Reforms pushed in elderly care" (10/12/07), by Daniel Axelrod, it was reported that "State lawmakers are discussing ways to better oversee personal care homes."

Members of the state House Aging and Older Adult Services Committee considering revisions to elder care laws heard testimony from bureaucrats and industry insiders Thursday at the University of Scranton. * * *

Representatives from the state Department of Public Welfare, which supervises personal care homes, and the Department of Health, overseer of nursing homes, explained the differences between the facilities.

Nursing homes employ skilled medical professionals providing constant care under vigorous scrutiny. But personal care homes are residential facilities with less-trained staff assisting residents with daily living activities, such as dressing and bathing. * * *
The legislators, including that Committee's Chair, Phyllis Mundy, held the local session to solicit testimony about PCH operations. Stories included lessons to be learned from a tragic, fatal incident that occurred more than a year ago in a Lackawanna County personal care home. See: "Man Pleads Guilty in Neglect Case", by Josh Brogadir, posted on October 15, 2007, by WNEP-16 News.

The Legislators introduced the current regulation of nursing homes as a potential model for greater regulation of personal care homes. They seek similar objectives:
The legislators want more-frequent inspections of the 1,500 personal care homes and better training for the facilities' staffs, which serve more than 50,000 vulnerable residents statewide.

The public should be able to look up institutions' violations online and know if staff doctors also own the facilities, they added.

Each year, between 40 and 45 personal care homes close because of serious violations, said Kevin Casey, a welfare department deputy secretary. The department has taken more than 150 enforcement actions for serious life safety violations in the year to date, but the majority of homes are safe, Mr. Casey said. * * *
The article mentioned specific areas of concern involving PCH facilities:
  • Tougher penalties if neglect leads to a care-dependent person's death.
  • Mandating that staff report mentally impaired patients refusing treatment.
  • More facility inspections.
  • Enhanced disclosure rules.
Another article about the same public session noted, "New legislation has been drafted, but has not been enacted. This was intended as an opportunity for lawmakers to hear from the public." See: "Changes Proposed for Personal Care Homes", by Josh Brogadir, posted on October 11, 2007, by WNEP-16 News.

This report noted the tension between care criteria and care costs:
Lawmakers said unnecessarily stringent regulations for the personal care industry can push people out of business. The challenge is to find a balance.