Of Mississippi’s 205 nursing homes, not one has had a clean safety record in the past three years. Since 2010, nursing homes in the state have amassed over 4,500 violations from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
It should be noted that these numbers reflect facilities that accept Medicare and Medicaid, however, not all nursing homes do. Facilities that are not certified to accept federal assistance programs are typically very small, private homes. Mississippi’s long-term-care ombudsman, a post in the Department of Human Services, stated that the state’s systemic failure is the result of low wages and inadequate training among nursing home personnel.
She further stated that many employees of Mississippi nursing homes make minimum wage, with no benefits, and could often make more at local casinos. Certified nursing assistants, for example, make an average of $24,600 a year in Mississippi, which is more than a fast food cook but less than a blackjack dealer at a casino.
Nursing homes that accept Medicare and Medicaid are subject to inspections at least once per year, along with unannounced inspections if there are any complaints filed. Facilities are also required to promptly report all incidents, no matter how seemingly trivial, to authorities. Certified nursing assistants must undergo and pass a 100-hour training course to be employed.
Overall, Mississippi nursing homes average about eight violations per nursing home. In the most recent Nursing Home Report Card, issued by the advocacy group Families for Better Care, the state earned a “D.”
The systemic pattern of health and safety violations can have dire, often gruesome consequences for the state’s elderly. In November 2010, an employee at Highland Home in Ridgeland, Mississippi found a resident hanging from her wheelchair’s lap belt by the neck. The patient had low muscle tone and poor cognitive skills, and the belt’s manufacturer specifically warned against its use in patients with these ailments.
The resident survived that incident, after which the facility switched her to a crotch restraint, despite manufacturer’s recommendations that it be used only for patients with adequate posture. On New Year’s Eve 2010, the same resident was found hanging from her wheelchair from the crotch restraint; the staff made no changes to her care plan and continued using the restraint, without regular monitoring.
At least three other residents at Highland Home suffered similar incidents, suggesting a pattern of inadequate monitoring and negligent care plans. Other serious problems noted at Highland are common among other nursing homes throughout the country: staff dropping residents while moving them, failing to follow physician’s orders, unnecessary sedation, isolation and theft. Highland racked up $635,000 in 2011, the highest of any facility in Mississippi.
The most common violation in Mississippi was failure to control the spread of infection in nursing homes, with nearly 315 violations. Second was failure to keep adequate clinical records. Golden Age Nursing Home in Greenwood has the highest number of deficiencies in the state, with 53 since 2010. Six violations occurred inÂ 2012 after an employee was caught stealing residents’ painkillers.