3 nursing homes added to federal watch list

Federal officials have cited three Georgia nursing homes for serious quality of care problems.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) placed the three facilities – in Midway, Tifton and Albany — on its latest ‘’Special  Focus Facility’’ list.

The designation means that a nursing home has had a history of serious quality problems, and will be subject to increased inspections by government surveyors.

The nursing homes added to  the Special Focus Facility list are Woodlands Health Care in Midway, Tift Health Care in Tifton, and Palmyra Nursing Home in Albany.

Three other Georgia nursing homes that were previously named problem facilities made enough improvement over 12 months to be removed from the list. They are Oceanside Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Tybee Island, Savannah Rehabilitation & Nursing in Savannah. and Tara at Thunderbolt Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Thunderbolt.

Government teams inspect nursing homes annually, and deficiencies are found in most facilities. But CMS says that a few nursing homes have more problems than average, more serious deficiencies and problems that have become persistent.

“Inspections should happen regularly so facilities do what they need to do for the safety of residents,’’ said Melanie McNeil, the state’s long-term care ombudsman. With regular scrutiny from inspections, McNeil said, ‘’consumers can trust that actions are being taken to fix the problems.’’

CMS provides consumers a ‘’Nursing Home Compare’’ website that allows consumers to comparison-shop the care at facilities based on prior inspections. Here’s a link to Nursing Home Compare.

McNeil said families of prospective nursing home residents should consult the CMS website and also visit the facility and check out in person its cleanliness, activities and overall care.

The CMS comparison site rates the quality of nursing homes with a system of one to five stars, with one star for a facility ‘’much below average, ‘’ and five stars for ‘’much above average.’’ This overall rating is taken from three measures: health inspections, staffing and quality measures.

The three newly designated SFF nursing homes in Georgia each received one-star overall rankings.

Woodlands Health Care received the highest number of deficiencies among Georgia facilities, with 32, according to CMS statistics. The 169-bed, for-profit nursing home had inspection problems that included ‘‘immediate jeopardy to resident health or safety’’ on failing to give or get emergency care by a doctor 24 hours a day.

The owners of Woodlands did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Tift Health Care received a low rating on treating bedsores, among 24 problems found in inspections. Doug Moody, administrator at the 178-bed, for-profit facility, said, ‘’We’ve made significant progress’’ since the SFF designation.

Moody noted that nursing homes face financial pressures because of low reimbursements from Medicaid, the government program that covers most Georgia nursing home residents.

Because of inadequate payments, Moody said, Tift Health Care recently dropped health insurance coverage for employees.

Palmyra Nursing Home, a for-profit facility with 250 beds, had 16 inspection problems that included failure to prevent and treat bedsores and failure to make sure that patients’ nutritional needs were met, inspectors found.

Jackie Ragan, who became facility administrator in October, said that a recent survey of Palmyra Nursing Home ‘’was very good.’’

“We’ve improved,’’ Ragan said. “We’ve been very pro-active.’’