37% of nursing homes non-compliant

Most tripped up by key infection control requirements

MORE THAN A THIRD of the state’s 360 nursing homes failed to pass an initial 28-point infection control inspection, most of them because they were not in compliance with at least one of six core requirements.

It was difficult to draw conclusions about the COVID-19 crisis at nursing homes from the ratings. Some nursing homes passed easily and yet have suffered a significant number of COVID-19 fatalities at their facilities. Others failed the inspection but have incurred few fatalities. Some nursing homes that have had problems with COVID-19 weren’t listed among those inspected,

Part of the problem is the refusal of the Baker administration to release detailed information on cases, fatalities, and inspection issues at each individual facility, which would allow researchers to look for patterns.

The infection control inspections were launched two weeks ago after the Baker administration steered $130 million in additional Medicaid funds to the state’s nursing homes. All of the homes will start receiving portion of the $130 million this week, but subsequent funding will be contingent on coming into compliance with the infection control checklist.

Nursing homes were awarded one point for each of the 28 items on the checklist. Those scoring 24 or more points are considered in adherence, those scoring between 20 and 24 are in adherence but warrant an additional inspection, and those under 20 or those who fail one of the six core requirements are deemed not in compliance.

According to the state Department of Public Health, 228 facilities were in adherence, 119 had scores of 20 or above but failed one of the core requirements, and 13 scored less than 20.  A check of the numbers, however, turned up only 12 facilities scoring less than 20.

The 12 included Bear Mountain of Sudbury, with a score of 13; Blaire House of Tewksbury (score of 19); Care One at Lowell (18); Jesmond in Nahant (15); M I Nursing in Lawrence (18); Town and Country in Lowell (18); Twin Oaks in Danvers (19); West Side House in Worcester (18); Wingate at Haverhill (17); Wingate at Weston (15); Woburn Nursing (17;, and Worcester Health Center (18).

Twenty-one facilities scored 27 out of 28 but nevertheless failed because they failed one of the six core requirements.

The state didn’t release a breakdown of scores on the 28 different items on the checklist or detail what core requirements were failed, but industry sources said the biggest challenge on the core requirements related to use of personal protection equipment. Operators also grumbled privately that the inspection process was chaotic with conflicting instructions.

Meet the Author

Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

The 113 facilities not in adherence will go through another inspection, which will determine whether they receive additional state funds.

Nursing homes have become the front lines in the war  against COVID-19 in Massachuetts. As of Wednesday, 3,701 people in nursing homes have died of COVID-19; that total represents 61 percent of all COVID-19 deaths in the state.