LA County Votes SNF Inspector General to Oversee Patient SafetyJune 18, 2020 | By administrator
The inspector general will increase SNF oversight, ideally identifying the patient safety and experience factors leading to large scale COVID-19 deaths.
– Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to appoint an inspector general to oversee skilled nursing facilities in an attempt to track the patient safety and satisfaction pitfalls that may have laid the groundwork for the COVID-19 crisis in these care sites.
The motion, set forward by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and Board Chair Kathryn Barger, acknowledges that nearly half of all COVID-19 deaths have occurred in skilled nursing facilities (SNFs). Individual SNFs are not wholly to blame, Ridley-Thomas and Barger acknowledged. Instead, the lack of oversight driving quality healthcare has led to an environment in which an infectious disease like COVID-19 may spread uncontrollably.
“While some skilled nursing homes may be doing their best to respond to COVID-19, we’ve seen hundreds of deaths at these facilities, tragically exposing the urgent need for stronger oversight across the industry,” Ridley-Thomas said in a statement.
“Now, more than ever, we must act to address any questionable operations and substandard conditions in the facilities that care for some of our most vulnerable residents – the elderly, the low-income, and the disabled.”
Care quality and patient safety issues in SNFs have been exacerbated in LA County, which has seen 5,218 SNF residents and 3,140 staff members test positive for the disease.
And these trends are worse among populations of color. Separate data shows that SNFs that treat a larger population of Latinx and black patients are twice as likely to be hit by COVID-19 than those that predominantly treat white patients. This is a pressing issue in LA County, which is home to large Latinx and black populations.
“Skilled nursing facilities provide critical care and support for many of our most vulnerable populations,” Supervisor Barger added. “As the County fights the COVID-19 public health crisis, we must greatly improve our ability to assess and oversee these facilities to ensure the safety and well-being of all those who have been entrusted to their care.”
The LA County inspector general for SNFs will specifically look at how to strengthen SNF oversight. Additionally, the inspector general will look into long-term improvement strategies.
This comes as part of LA County’s efforts to learn from the challenges ensued during the novel coronavirus pandemic. As noted above, about 53 percent of LA County’s COVID-19 fatalities occurred in medical institutions like SNFs, and the area’s medical leaders want to work to preventing future crises.
To that end, the inspector general will look at the internal and external factors that hampered SNF efforts to address the pandemic, look at what may contributed to oft-inadequate SNF conditions, and provide oversight and resources for improvement.
The inspector general will also be in charge of improving regulatory requirements that improve care at the state and local level. Ultimately, this is set to improve care quality, reduce infection rates, and support the staff members who work in SNFs.
“It is our collective responsibility to protect and support the most vulnerable among us,” said Christina Ghaly, MD, the director of the LA County Department of Health Services. “Prioritizing the health and safety of those in our County’s skilled nursing facilities is the right thing to do and will also help protect the availability of hospital resources for all those who need them.”
In a separate push for transparency, the LA County Board of Supervisors also tapped the Auditor-Controller to design a COVID-19 dashboard. The dashboard, which Ridley-Thomas and Barger’s motion states must be publicly available, should include data about COVID-19 caseloads, testing frequency, mitigation plan status, and other not-yet defined data.
The motion also works to assess the quality of mitigation plans and define an oversight process for these plans.