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Georgia Could Better Ensure That Nursing Homes Comply With Federal Requirements for Life Safety, Emergency Preparedness, and Infection Control

Why OIG Did This Audit

In 2016, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) updated its life safety and emergency preparedness regulations for health care facilities to improve protections for individuals enrolled in Medicare and Medicaid, including those residing in long-term care facilities (nursing homes). The updates expanded requirements related to sprinkler systems, smoke detector coverage, and emergency preparedness plans. In addition, facilities were required to implement an infection control program.

Our objective was to determine whether Georgia ensured that selected nursing homes in Georgia that participated in the Medicare or Medicaid programs complied with Federal requirements for life safety, emergency preparedness, and infection control.

How OIG Did This Audit

Of the 358 nursing homes in Georgia that participated in Medicare and Medicaid, we selected a nonstatistical sample of 20 nursing homes for our audit based on certain risk factors, including multiple high-risk deficiencies Georgia reported to CMS.

We conducted unannounced site visits at the 20 nursing homes from June through September 2022. During the site visits, we checked for life safety, emergency preparedness, and infection control deficiencies.

What OIG Found

Georgia could better ensure that nursing homes in Georgia that participate in Medicare or Medicaid programs comply with Federal requirements for life safety, emergency preparedness, and infection control if additional resources were available. During our onsite inspections, we identified deficiencies related to life safety, emergency preparedness, or infection control at 19 of the 20 nursing homes we audited, totaling 155 deficiencies. Specifically, we found 71 deficiencies related to life safety, 66 deficiencies related to emergency preparedness, and 18 deficiencies related to infection control. As a result, the health and safety of residents, staff, and visitors at 19 of the 20 nursing homes are at an increased risk during a fire or other emergency or in the event of an infectious disease outbreak.

The identified deficiencies occurred because of frequent management and staff turnover, which contributed to a lack of awareness of, or failure to address, Federal requirements. In addition, Georgia had limited resources to conduct surveys of all nursing homes more frequently than CMS required. Finally, although not required by CMS, Georgia does not require relevant nursing home staff to participate in standardized life safety training programs despite CMS having a publicly accessible online learning portal with appropriate content on life safety requirements.

What OIG Recommends and Georgia Comments

We recommend that Georgia follow up with the 19 nursing homes in this audit that demonstrated life safety, emergency preparedness, and infection control deficiencies to ensure that they have taken corrective actions. We also make procedural recommendations for Georgia to work with CMS to address foundational issues to implement a risk-based approach to identifying and conducting more frequent surveys at nursing homes and to develop standardized life safety training for nursing home staff.

In written comments on our draft report, Georgia concurred with our first recommendation and indicated that our other procedural recommendations were beyond its scope and authority. After reviewing Georgia's comments, we revised one of our procedural recommendations and maintain that our findings and recommendations are valid.

Filed under: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services