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Report: Several Minnesota nursing homes perform poorly, need more scrutiny

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Updated 7:18 p.m. | Posted 10:38 a.m.

A U.S. Senate report says several nursing homes in Minnesota are not getting the extra oversight they should receive.   

The report released Monday identified eight Minnesota nursing homes still in operation, whose poor performance warrants more supervision from regulators. The report said those nursing homes have not received the attention they deserve. That's because the federal government does not have the money to add the homes to a program that provides increased oversight of poor-performing homes and publicly identifies them.

The Minnesota nursing homes are among hundreds of facilities nationwide that qualify for a program aimed at facilities that "substantially fail" to meet standards for resident care and protection. 

Nursing homes land on the list for a range of problems — from failing to provide adequate medical care to neglecting to investigate allegations of sexual assault.

"If you're on this program, it means that you are a poor-performing nursing home in a variety of ways and the federal government has decided that it's going to pay extra-special close attention to try to make sure you fix those problems," said Sean Burke, the public policy director for the Minnesota Elder Justice Center.

The Senate report said that less than 1 percent of the nation's nursing homes are in the special oversight program. But another 2.5 percent are candidates for greater scrutiny but don't receive it.  

Two Minnesota nursing homes have been enrolled in the program and their identities were publicly known. But the eight other homes with performance problems had not been previously identified.  

The Estates at St. Louis Park is one of the nursing homes that would get more scrutiny if there were federal funding to do that.  But administrator Talia Pletcher says the facility is committed to fix what's wrong and that they prioritize residents' welfare.

"There were issues in the previous years that the Department of Health found to be substandard," she said. "I can say that we have done what we need to do to continuously work with the Department of Health to make sure that our systems are in place and that we are corrected."

The home had a change in ownership about two years ago. 

Kristine Sundberg, president of Elder Voice Advocates, said the report provided "alarming information". 

"But I suspect there are far more poor providers out there than this list would indicate," she said.

The state of Minnesota's ombudsman for long-term care, Cheryl Hennen, said residents in the eight homes and their families should look into the homes' shortcomings.  

"We encourage people to schedule meetings with the administrator or the staff in leadership at the facility," she said. "If your facility is one of these eight, ask them what is being done about improving."    Hennen also advises people to check out the online Minnesota Nursing Home Report Card. 

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services maintain "Nursing Home Compare," an online reference tool to evaluate nursing homes. 

But the Senate report lamented that the centers recently altered the website to call less attention to nursing homes facing more intense regulatory review.