It’s hard to imagine something more disturbing than the report that a nurse found maggots on the skin of a Sanford nursing home resident, but the state’s oversight agency may have provided it.
Asked for information about previous inspections or health violations at the Newton Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing following this week’s report, a spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services said he could not.
“I can’t tell you about their record,” said DHHS spokesman John Martins. “That information is not readily available on each facility.”
That is stunning, since the DHHS licenses nursing homes like the Newton Center, and the facility was found to have “health deficiencies” far exceeding state and national averages during inspections conducted last year by a federal Medicare comparison program.
That report should have given state regulators plenty to work with. An inspector reported finding dirty bedside tables, food-encrusted wheelchairs and chipped bathroom tiles. Yet all Martins could report was that the Newton Center is a fully licensed facility, inspected annually by the state and has no conditions on its operation.
Armed with the state’s information, a prospective resident or family member might think the Newton Center had a clean record. But the low federal rating raises questions that make the maggot discovery look less like an isolated incident.
Consumers depend on state watchdogs to conduct detailed inspections of these facilities and make the information public in a timely manner. These facilities get most of their revenue through taxpayer-funded programs, which makes it even more important for DHHS to have in-depth data available for review.
DHHS should be protecting the public and not the facilities the agency regulates. If the information about the state’s nursing homes is not “readily available” it should be and it should be soon.