According to the nursing home reform act of 1987 all residents in nursing homes are entitled to receive quality care and live in an environment that improves or maintains the quality of their physical and mental health. From what we learned that's not happening in most cases.
"I think that the safety and well being of people who are in nursing homes is not secure at all. Not in the country and not in Kentucky from what I've seen."
Louisville attorney, Martha Marie Eastman concentrates her practice in the areas of nursing home negligence and medical negligence.
"The kind of injuries that we're seeing from that, including death and other things but more specifically pressure ulcers. Which are actually craters in people's skin which will actually go down to the bone."
In addition to being extremely painful for residents bedsores can cause infection and can sometimes be fatal. They are caused by sitting or lying in one position for too long. In nursing homes pressure sores can form when residents aren't moved around.
"The injuries really are horrible. They don't have their dignity anymore and they're terribly too."
The website www.memberofthefamily.net provides information about 16 thousand nursing homes facilities in the United States. There you can get a state by state report of nursing homes.
"Only 1.4 percent of the nursing homes in Kentucky merit some kind of good Samaritan award. And almost all of them have been written up."
This is a printout of the nursing homes in Kentucky with complaints against them. It's 163 pages long. Offenses range from potential for minimum harm to the potential to cause actual harm and or immediate jeopardy to a resident.
Eastman says it's not due to a lack of qualified workers.
"A lot of reasons for that are people who work in the nursing homes aren't paid enough money. But more important than that, they don't have enough staff. So they get discouraged and leave and get other jobs."
Eastman says nursing homes are run like a business and in many cases management makes the decision not to hire more nurses. Hospitals have a medical review board but nursing homes do not. In fact, nursing home administrators don't even have to have nursing licenses.
"I will not be sending a family member to a nursing home. Not unless things change significantly around the country and around the state."
Governor Ernie Fletcher signed three key bills on nursing home reform passed in the current general assembly.
Senate Joint Resolution 176- this bill orders the state to pursue a pilot program offered by the feds that would pay nursing homes money for hiring the proper number of nursing staff and for improving staff training and staff turnover.
Senate Bill 141 - calls for the firing of any state employee caught tipping off a nursing home that it was going to be inspected.
House Bill 121 - this bill says that any nursing home without fire sprinkler protection must notify persons applying by admission in writing.