AUSTIN, Texas — The KVUE Defenders obtained a document from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which shows State inspectors are cutting back on how often they are surveying senior care facilities.
CMS is the federal agency that works with state health departments to regulate nursing homes.
Families and advocates say reducing inspection visits is disturbing because the COVID-19 death toll for nursing home patients has reached 15 in Austin and 130 statewide, as of Monday, April 20.
This memo sent by CMS to state health departments across the country outlines new guidelines for nursing home inspections during the COVID-19 crisis.
The federal government has temporarily ordered a stop on all standard inspections and revisit inspections that aren't labeled as "immediate jeopardy."
The document also details inspections that are allowed right now. Those are complaints labeled as "immediate jeopardy" and infection control inspections.
But some families and advocates worry nursing home patients could be at risk because inspectors can find severe violations during routine inspections.
"The perception of nursing homes – they have a lot of problems," said Brian Lee, the executive director of Families for Better Care. "And so, for there not to be inspections and oversight right now and accountability within these facilities is pretty scary to me."
CMS published a statement on its website addressing the change to inspections.
"This action ensures that all CMS resources are focused on combatting COVID-19 and allows clinicians to do the same, focus on patient safety, not routine paperwork," the website reads.
The KVUE Defenders are still pushing for the State to release the names of nursing home facilities with positive cases of COVID-19.
Texas Health and Human Services cites personal health privacy laws as the reason they won't publish that information, but several states have already released that information.
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