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Nursing home problems tallied

Inspectors found problems at most Kentucky nursing homes in 2007, according to a report by the inspector general at the U.S. Department for Health and Human Services.

The report said inspectors noted deficiencies at 88 percent of Kentucky nursing homes. Nationally, deficiencies were noted at 92 percent of nursing homes.

Kentucky had fewer deficiencies at individual nursing homes than the national average as well. Kentucky nursing homes had an average of 4.5 deficiencies. Nationally an average of seven were found.

Deficiencies include inappropriate treatment, medication errors, abuse, unnecessary drugs and dirtiness. Federal regulations require unannounced inspections of nursing homes every 15 months.

However, Janet Wells, director of public policy at the National Citizen's Coalition for Nursing Home Reform, cautioned that Kentucky's numbers might not be as good as they seem.

"It's just a reflection on the quality of the inspection system," Wells said.

How much time inspectors have, turnover rates and political pressure affect the quality of inspections in each state, Wells said.

Misconduct can also affect them.

In the last year, two state employees, one of whom was an assistant director in the office of inspector general, were fired because they lived rent-free in Lexington houses owned by a nursing home operator.

Bernie Vonderheide, founder of Kentuckians for Nursing Home Reform, said the report showed a need for change.

"Nobody wants to recognize that there's problems in these facilities," said Vonderheide, who wants Kentucky to adopt new nursing home regulations. "Again and again, we get these reports. Again and again, nothing happens."

However, Ruby Jo Lubarsky, president of the Kentucky Association of Health Care Facilities, a trade group, questioned the value of the results.

"The survey process is not a good indicator of quality," Lubarsky said.

Consumers should do research on individual homes, looking at specific deficiencies and programs available to residents, Lubarsky said.

The report, which focused on national issues, noted that, in general, for-profit nursing homes scored worse than non-profit and government-run nursing homes: 94 percent of for-profits were cited, 88 percent of non-profits and 91 percent of government-run homes. For-profit homes also had higher numbers of deficiencies per nursing home.