Recent incidents in Connecticut nursing homes have highlighted the state’s failure to conduct routine inspections.

WSHU’s Ebong Udoma spoke with CT Mirror’s Dave Altimari to discuss an article he co-wrote with Jenna Carlesso, “CT nursing home conditions raise alarms as inspections lag,” as part of the collaborative podcast Long Story Short.

You can read the story here.

Episode Transcript

WSHU: Could you tell us about your investigation and what it found concerning nursing homes? Basically, violations increasing in the nursing homes while the state failed to conduct routine inspections over the last 18 months. I believe the public perception has been the state inspection has stepped up since COVID, so what’s the issue there?

DA: First, the state has roughly inspected, or recertified, about half of the state’s 200 nursing homes in the last 18 months. So there’s about 90-93 that have not been recertified. And, there’s 11 facilities that they acknowledge they haven’t been to at all in the last 18 months. Part of it is they’re short staffed, part of it is they’re still recovering from COVID so there was a built-in backlog. They’re 20-25% down as far as the number of inspectors.

The second part of it is, when they find a problem in a nursing home they can issue an immediate jeopardy order. That’s something you have to respond to immediately because there’s a life or death issue. And those orders have gone up significantly in the last couple of years. There were 24 last year, and we’re already at12 or 13 this year, so it’s roughly on pace to the same number.

WSHU: You give the example of a 53-year-old who was admitted for short stay at a nursing home and ended up dead. That’s one of the jeopardy orders that came up. Can you explain a bit about what happened in that situation?

DA: I think you’re talking about the case where the Hartford resident overdosed. There’s a facility in Manchester, Westside Care Center, that’s had since August of 2022 until May, 10 overdoses. This one guy died in January when he somehow overdosed on fentanyl. There’s been several police investigations. If you’re going to visit someone there, they will search your pocketbook, for example, because they’ve determined that a lot of the drugs were coming in through visitors bringing them in.

They’ve limited the number of places they can have food delivered, too. Some of the residents told me there’s a nearby pizza place that they’ve suspected that someone was literally bringing the drugs in through the pizza box. So, that’s a facility that the immediate jeopardy order was issued a couple of weeks after this guy overdosed, but it turns out his case was one of many that they’ve had, and several others were only revived because they were given Narcan by emergency or medical personnel that were called to the scene.

Not only are nursing homes struggling to get staff post-COVID, what’s happened is they also don’t have the administrators and management people. There’s a lot of turnover there, so there’s a lot of lack of training.

WSHU: State Senator Kathy Austin is proposing having some sort of emergency meeting in August. She actually is involved with state financing. So, what is she trying to do, because it is a crisis. We have to deal with this issue right away. There’s a nursing home financial advisory committee.

DA: Yes, and they meet quarterly — people from DSS, people from DPH, people from the industry on that committee. And they meet to discuss what’s going on, mostly financial stuff. Although, there is an update given about immediate jeopardy orders and what’s going on. So after the July meeting, they’re not supposed to meet for three months. She has asked for an interim meeting because of the situation we just reported on. During our reporting on this, DHP has started — they’re not calling it a task forced but in effect it is a task force — of DHS and DPH officials to discuss what’s going on, why immediate jeopardy orders are up. I think that task force will come up with something before this committee that you mentioned will. But, it will be things that will likely cost a commitment of money in the state.

WSHU: And we don’t see anything coming up until the next appropriations cycle.

DA: I’m not sure about that. You’re probably right, but if things continue to go as they are now — you’re correct it is a crisis in these facilities — the state may have to do something here. They may to do something in the interim.

Long Story Short takes you behind the scenes at the home of public policy journalism in Connecticut. Each week WSHU’s Ebong Udoma joins us to rundown the Sunday Feature with our reporters. We also present specials on CT Mirror’s big investigative pieces.