The state health department’s quality assurance division tracks benchmarks for care and services for residents at nursing homes by conducting unannounced on-site inspections and surveys. The visits are used to assure compliance with state and federal rules and regulations. “The inspections are very rigorous, and the inspectors scrutinize everything to make sure those patients are getting the care that they deserve,” said Tessie Pollock, a spokeswoman for the state health department.
Inspectors review patient records and interview residents and nursing home staff, she said.
The inspections occur at least once during a nine- to 15-month cycle, and a database of inspection reports is available for review by the public.
Every nursing home must be licensed by the state, Pollock said. The Ohio Department of Health oversees the licensing. The health department also has a contract with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to monitor nursing homes that provide care to Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries.
There are six licensed nursing homes in Sandusky. Combined, they received an average of 3.5 in a five-star rating system for the health inspection, staffing and quality measures.
Great Lakes Transitional Care, 1912 Hayes Ave., received a a five-star overall rating, making it the “best” ranking, while Lutheran Memorial Home on Bardshar Road received a two-star overall rating.
Monitoring is stringent, and citations are regularly issued with action plans. Both Great Lakes and the Lutheran Home have been cited in past years.
For instance, in November 2012, a resident’s catheter at Great Lakes Transitional Care was in direct contact with the floor’s surface. An unsterile catheter can lead to bladder, kidney or urinary tract infections, according to the National Health Service Foundation.
Every violation gets addressed, said Angie Echelberger, director of nursing at Great Lakes Transitional Care.
“We absolutely try to better ourselves for our residents’ safety,” she said.
During an October 2012 inspection at Lutheran Memorial Home, 795 Bardshar Road, the facility’s kitchen was reported to be dirty.
“There was an accumulation of burnt food debris on the bottom of the convection oven … and (there was) buildup of a black substance in back of the stoves,” the report states. “The floor was also littered with food debris.”
Sunshine Holzmiller, director of nursing at Lutheran Memorial Home, said kitchen cleanliness is extremely important to employees at the home.
“The details of that incident were that a resident had requested toast in between meal time, and then the inspector had walked into the kitchen to find it dirty,” Holzmiller said.
The Erie County Care Facility in Huron Township, which received a two-star overall rating, also failed to maintain its kitchen in a sanitary manner, according to a January 2013 inspection report.
Freezers at the facility had opened bags of chicken nuggets, hash browns and biscuits that were not dated. Also found was a “discolored” ham partially wrapped in cellophane.
The dining experience was also found to be unpleasant for residents at Erie County Care. An inspector witnessed residents sitting at the same table each receiving their breakfast about 10 minutes after one another.
“We submitted a plan of correction to the state which was approved,” said Donna Patrick, director of nursing at the Erie County Care Facility. “We are back in compliance as of March 7. We definitely want to improve and are involved in the Advancing Excellence in America’s Nursing Home Program, which gives the most evidence-based, best up-todate care.”
An inspector found the shower room at Concord Care and Rehabilitation Center, 620 W. Strub Road, Sandusky, was doubling as a smoking room.
The center received a three-star overall rating.
“The air in the room was heavy with smoke odor,” the February report states. “Seven residents were smoking in the shower room … there was also two kitty litter boxes in the corner of the room.”
In the report, an unnamed state-tested nursing assistant said residents smoke five times a day, and most showers for first shift were done when the residents got up in the morning, immediately after breakfast, or when they so wished.
Employees from Concord Care refused to comment on the incident.
Receiving the most severe violation in the Register’s readership area was Elmwood Nursing Home in Green Springs, a village just outside of Clyde.
A hydrocollator, a water bath for placing cloths or heating pads to later apply to the skin for therapeutic use, was left unattended at the home, according to a report.
The unit was plugged in, turned on, and was easily accessible to anybody at the home. At the time of January 2011 inspection, the water temperature inside the machine measured 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
This placed all 10 residents at risk for third-degree burns, which penetrate the entire thickness of the skin and destroy the skin tissue, the report states.
Kathy Hunt, CEO of Elmwood Communities said the machine wasn’t left unattended and was “no hotter than a coffee pot.”
“They got all bent out of shape over it,” Hunt said. “It was in a new (physical therapy) room that we just had just built. The machine was brand new, but it was defective as the lock had been broken. But we fixed the issue right then and unplugged it and moved it into a locked closet until we could get the lock repaired.”
Pollock said the Ohio Department of Health’s goal is to help facilities come back into compliance.
“In Ohio it is important that the department of health is protecting the safety of nursing home residents,” Pollock said. “We want to make sure they have a happy, healthy, safe place to live. Our goal is to never shut down a nursing home.”