A new GAO study has found an extraordinary number of nursing homes have been cited for poor infection control practices in recent years and state nursing home enforcement agencies almost never find these poor practices harmful. The GAO reports that 82% of the nation’s nursing homes were cited for bad infection prevention in 2013-2017, ranging from staff members failing to wash their hands to failing to isolate sick and infectious residents. Almost half of all facilities were cited in multiple consecutive years, indicating a deeply persistent problem with infection control compliance.
Equally striking, 99% of the thousands of citations were labeled by state enforcement agencies as “non-harmful” to residents, meaning they were not accompanied by any actual enforcement action. This slap on the wrist treatment for bad infection control practices tacitly encouraged horrible infection control in nursing homes which has contributed to the massive number of deaths residents are suffering now from COVID-19.
The GAO study confirms that years of red flags regarding infection control in nursing homes were ignored, much to our detriment. Stronger enforcement of our infection control standards is desperately needed.