The state started putting the findings of its nursing home inspectors online Wednesday in an effort to better protect Kentucky's nursing home residents.
The move is one of several improvements Gov. Steve Beshear's administration promised to make in September after Cabinet Secretary Janie Miller released a review of the way abuse and neglect at nursing homes is handled in Kentucky.
The review was prompted by a series of Herald-Leader articles this summer pointing to problems in the way the cases are investigated.
People can access the information, which includes findings by state inspectors and the facilities' plan of correction, by visiting the Cabinet for Health and Family Services Office of Inspector General's Web site, chfs.ky.gov/os/oig/. The site also provides information about who owns each nursing home.
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"Implementation of this technology will enhance safety and quality for consumers and promote transparency," cabinet spokeswoman Beth Fisher said Friday.
Previously, people who wanted information about Office of Inspector General inspections and investigations at nursing homes had to make a request under the Kentucky Open Records Act.
Bernie Vonderheide, founder for the advocacy group Kentuckians for Nursing Home Reform, said posting the information is a good start toward providing more transparency, but he said the Web site should contain the simplest explanation possible of the documents.
"I applaud them for doing this," said Vonderheide. "I'm hopeful they will continue to work toward that goal of making what they are reporting more understandable to the public."
Ruby Jo Cummins Lubarsky, President of the Kentucky Association of Health Care Facilities in Louisville, said publicly displaying statements of deficiencies is not new in Kentucky.
"They are currently posted in the lobby of every nursing facility in Kentucky, as well as available to the public on the CMS Nursing Home Compare Web site. Also, this information has always been available through Kentucky Open Records requests," Lubarsky said.
In its investigation, the Herald-Leader examined 107 Type A citations — those given when a resident's life or safety has been endangered — issued over a three-year period by the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.
The investigation found that only seven of the 107 cases of nursing home deaths or abuse cases were prosecuted as crimes.
The citations involved 18 deaths, 30 hospitalizations, five broken bones and two amputations that resulted from violations of state regulations. Thirteen residents were injured as a result of lapses by staff members, according to the citations. The newspaper found that some cases languished.
In addition to suggesting that inspection findings be posted, Miller's review also recommended a better process of notifying local law enforcement about allegations; more required training; and more intensive, coordinated investigations.