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

Issued on  | Posted on  | Report number: A-02-22-01004

Why OIG Did This Audit

In 2016, CMS updated its life safety and emergency preparedness regulations related to health care facilities to improve protections for all Medicare and Medicaid enrollees, 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. Additionally, facilities were required to implement an infection control program.

Our objective was to determine whether New Jersey ensured that selected nursing homes in New Jersey that participate 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 356 nursing homes in New Jersey 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 New Jersey reported to CMS.

We conducted unannounced site visits at the 20 nursing homes from March through May 2022. During the site visits, we checked for life safety, emergency preparedness, and infection control deficiencies based on requirements listed on CMS surveyor checklists.

What OIG Found

New Jersey could better ensure that nursing homes in New Jersey 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 all 20 nursing homes we audited, totaling 363 deficiencies. Specifically, we found 148 deficiencies related to life safety, 152 deficiencies related to emergency preparedness, and 63 deficiencies related to infection control. As a result, the health and safety of residents, staff, and visitors at 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, New Jersey had limited resources to conduct surveys of all nursing homes more frequently than CMS required. Finally, although not required by CMS, New Jersey 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 New Jersey Department of Health Comments

We recommend that New Jersey follow up with the 20 nursing homes reviewed as part of this audit to ensure that they have taken corrective actions regarding the deficiencies identified in this report and instruct all nursing homes to install carbon monoxide detectors in accordance with New Jersey requirements. We also make procedural recommendations for New Jersey to work with CMS to develop and implement a plan to identify and conduct more frequent surveys at nursing homes and to develop standardized training for nursing home staff.

New Jersey did not indicate concurrence or nonconcurrence with our recommendations and disagreed with some deficiencies and our conclusions. New Jersey provided information on actions that it has taken or plans to take to address our recommendations. We revised one recommendation based on New Jersey's comments and maintain that our findings and recommendations, as revised, are valid because they are based on the regulatory requirements contained in CMS surveyor checklists noted in our report.