Beshear says he will work to improve nursing home care in Kentucky

vhoneycutt@herald-leader.comNovember 19, 2013 

Gov. Steve Beshear

Gov. Steve Beshear said in a recent letter to a nursing home advocate that he would take steps to improve the quality of care in Kentucky's nursing homes.

Beshear said he would call for open forums in various regions of the state so that the public and nursing home residents could share their ideas to improve the quality of long-term care in Kentucky.

Beshear also said he would ask program leaders from the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to research the impact that increasing nursing home staffing could have in Kentucky.

"I take this challenge very seriously and will be working with my staff and the state's Elder Abuse Committee over the coming months to explore ways in which we can improve the quality of care," Beshear said in the Nov. 5 letter to Bernie Vonderheide, founder of Kentuckians for Nursing Home Reform.

In August, Vonderheide wrote the governor saying that a Florida-based citizen advocacy group called Families for Better Care analyzed eight federal measures gauging nursing home quality.

States were ranked with a grade on an A to F scale with A being the best. Kentucky nursing homes ended up in the "D" category and ranked 40th in nursing home care among all the states, Vonderheide said.

The governor pointed to two reports by different groups in his Nov. 5 letter. He said that by overlaying the Florida advocacy group's Nursing Home Report Card with a 2012 long-term care liability actuarial report "a trend emerges."

Christian Coleianne, who authored the 2012 actuarial report by Aon Risk Solutions, said that across the country, a long-term care operator at a 100-bed facility on average would expect to pay $154,000 in liability costs per year. In Kentucky that cost per year is $535,000 for a 100 bed-facility. The cost estimates are for 2013, based on data collected in 2012.

Kentucky was among the high-risk states that received a below average or failing nursing home care grade on the Families for Better Care report, Beshear's letter said.

Kerri Richardson, a spokeswoman for Beshear, said Tuesday that the governor was on an economic development trip to Dubai. But Richardson confirmed the steps toward improvement that Beshear outlined in the letter.

Cabinet for Health and Family Services spokeswoman Jill Midkiff said the Cabinet would likely have a response to the letter on Wednesday.

Vonderheide praised Beshear's willingness to improve nursing homes. Vonderheide said "recommendations for action on nursing home reform are an historic first step in improving long-term care in Kentucky."

"This is the first time, for example, that a Kentucky governor has embraced nursing home staffing standards," Vonderheide said.

"Kentuckians for Nursing Home Reform and its many supporters will be behind the governor every step of the way as a program and plan for improved care are implemented."

Beshear said in his letter that getting better care for nursing homes wasn't just a state government problem and he hoped that "communities become engaged" to implement changes to benefit nursing home residents.

"We jointly strive to make Kentucky an 'A' state," Beshear told Vonderheide.

Valarie Honeycutt Spears: (859) 231-3409. Twitter: @vhspears

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