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Byline: DANA BARTHOLOMEW Staff Writer

Poor nursing homes abound while good ones are harder to find, says a survey released Tuesday that blames lax oversight of nursing care facilities.

An analysis by the nonprofit Consumer Reports listed what it considers the best and worst of the nation's 16,000 nursing homes -- including two of the best and one of the worst in the San Fernando Valley.

``It's a national disgrace that 20 years after landmark legislation was passed, nursing homes continue to provide poor care,'' said Trudy Lieberman, director of the Center for Consumer Health Choices and author of the report.

``People in nursing homes are frailer and sicker than ever before.''

In ``Nursing Homes: Business as Usual,'' the New York-based consumer advocate found that not-for-profit nursing homes generally provide the best care.

It also found that independent nursing homes are generally superior than those run by chains, saying that unaffiliated facilities tend to have more staff and registered nurses.

State nursing home industry officials took issue with the report, saying it used old data and unfairly lumped nursing homes with hospital nursing care or psychiatric services.

``They really have missed the mark on this one,'' said Betsy Hite, spokeswoman for the California Association of Health Facilities, which represents the state's nursing homes.

Nursing home care, she added, has actually improved.

``It's so flawed, I frankly consider it an actual disservice to Consumer Reports, which many people rely on for goods and services.''

Consumer Reports based its conclusions on evaluation of recent state inspection reports for nursing homes.

The report, available online and in the September issue of Consumer Reports, ranked homes according to inspection surveys, staffing and quality indicators, listing top and bottom 10 percent of nursing homes.

The report also discusses the influence of politics on the 1987 federal nursing home reform law, with violators receiving token fines -- or no fines at all.

``We couldn't agree more,'' said Mike Connors of the Pasadena office of California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, which has sued the state for failing to investigate nursing home complaints in a timely manner.

``Poor care is business as usual for many California nursing homes.''

A representative of the state Department of Health Services, which oversees nursing homes, could not be reached for comment late Tuesday.

California contains three of the nation's worst dozen nursing homes, including Fountain Gardens Convalescent Hospital in Los Angeles, according to the report.

A Fountain Gardens administrator did not return calls.

In the San Fernando Valley, Consumer reports recommended Alameda Care Center in Burbank and Glendale Memorial Hospital and Health Center. Sherman Oaks Hospital was also recommended but closed its transitional-bed unit last year.

The magazine suggested avoiding California Healthcare & Rehab of Van Nuys, listed on a Medicare Web site with 28 deficiencies. A company official did not return calls.

Only 2 percent of for-profit nursing homes and 7.3 percent of not-for-profit homes met Consumer Reports standards for quality nursing home care.

What's needed, Lieberman said, is tough federal and state oversight and enforcement for the 1.6 million people who live in nursing homes.

``What's amazing to me is that things are really going in the wrong direction,'' she said. ``The feds pull their punches ... the regulation process in the states have been swamped by politics.''


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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Aug 9, 2006

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