Nursing homes get report cards
Six improve, eight drop, 17 stay the same. By Brian Wallace, Staff Writer firstname.lastname@example.org
In the past three years, Luther Acres Manor has added a director of quality assurance to its staff and increased the number of registered nurses providing care to its residents.
Those changes may have helped the Lititz nursing home get much higher ratings this year from a government agency that evaluates nursing care, according to an official at the company that runs the home.
Luther Acres earned five stars for 2013, up from three in 2011, and is among the six Lancaster County nursing homes whose ratings improved from two years ago. Eight homes had lower ratings, and 17 stayed the same.
Overall, the report found that county nursing homes offer a level of care that's slightly above average. On a scale of one to five, the county's 21 homes averaged 3.4 stars, compared with 3.5 stars two years ago.
The ratings, compiled by the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, are based on inspections, staffing levels and measures of the health quality of residents.
The agency looks at three years of health department inspection data, nursing and physical therapy staffing levels and such health measures as the percentage of residents with bed sores, urinary tract infections and other ailments.
Eighteen county homes earned either five stars (much above average) or four (above average); four got three stars (average); and nine received two stars (below average) or one star (much below average).
One home that earned one star, Golden Living Center-Lancaster, was flagged as a "special focus facility" for having "a history of persistent poor quality of care," according to the report.
It will be subject to more frequent inspections and potential termination from participating in Medicare and Medicaid if its performance does not improve.
An official with Golden Living could not immediately be reached for comment.
Other one-star homes include Conestoga View, ManorCare Health Services-Lancaster and Lancashire Hall, all of Lancaster; and Susquehanna Valley Nursing & Rehabilitation Center, of Columbia.
All of them were rated one star in 2011, except for Conestoga View, which earned two.
That home's administrator, Jennifer Eslinger, said the ratings system "doesn't take into account the entire picture."
Surveys of family members with relatives at Conestoga View indicate they are "greatly content," she said.
"The best rating you can get is to go and see the facility, talk to the staff, take a tour," Eslinger said.
"I think people who come here are going to see a community-based facility with a lot of camaraderie and a family-like atmosphere."
Other homes whose ratings dropped by one star are Pleasant View, of Manheim; St. Anne's, of Columbia; Zerbe Sisters, of Narvon; and Masonic Village, of Elizabethtown.
Three homes' ratings improved by one star -- Audubon Villa, of Lititz, Denver Health and Rehabilitation, of Stevens; and Brethren Village, of Lancaster.
Nursing homes that improved by two stars, in addition to Luther Acres, are ManorCare Health Services-Elizabethtown and Hamilton Arms Center in Lancaster.
"We feel great about getting a five," said Curt Evans, vice president of senior living and community services at Luther Care, which runs Luther Acres. "All the credit goes to our team that's over there. They worked very hard, and they deserve it."
Evans said his "heart goes out to the nursing homes at the three-star and two-star level because we've been there, and sometimes it's based on what happens when the surveyors are in the building, and that's tough."
Phil Burkholder suspects that may have been the case for his nursing home, United Zion, of Lititz, which dropped in the ratings from four stars to two.
The home received only one star in the health inspection category this year, despite earning five stars in quality of care.
Burkholder, the home's administrator, said health department inspectors were being evaluated by federal officials when they conducted the latest review.
"They had federal government employees looking over their shoulders making sure the letter of the law was followed, and it may have been a factor," he said.
United Zion plans to "dig a little deeper" into the ratings system and make the five-star rating criteria a part of its strategic plan, Burkholder said.
Other homes that saw their ratings fall by two stars from 2011 to 2013 are Mount Hope Nazarene, of Manheim, and Rheems Nursing and Rehabilitation, of Elizabethtown. Both are now rated at two stars.
In general, nonprofit nursing homes fared much better than for-profit facilities in the report. Nonprofit homes earned a rating of 4.1 stars, on average, compared with 2.5 stars for for-profit homes.
The ratings system is designed to help guide family members in choosing care for relatives, but it is not a substitute for visits to nursing homes and other research, according to the government.
Individual reports on the county's homes, including inspection reports, can be found at the website medicare.gov/nursinghomecompare/.