Missouri health department gets low marks for inspections

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- A failure to perform legislatively mandated inspections helped earn the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services the second-lowest rating possible from the state auditor's office during a recent review.

On Tuesday, Auditor Tom Schweich released his evaluation of the health department's performance in inspecting and investigating complaints related to long-term care facilities.

Under state law, the Section for Long-term Care Regulation (SLCR) within the health department is required to conduct at least two inspections of all licensed nursing homes every year. But the auditor said that 42 percent of the second-round inspections are not being performed. That's 471 facilities out of 1,132 in all.

"Frequent inspections of long-term care facilities are needed to ensure the facilities are in compliance with resident health and safety requirements," the auditor's report reads.

The auditor recommended the department reevaluate how its personnel are being used in order to see that all statutorily required inspections are being performed.

In a written reply, DHSS told the auditor's office that the reason for delayed or unperformed second inspections at some facilities was a result of the department prioritizing follow-up inspections at facilities that received complaints.

"It should be noted that every facility received a full inspection in both fiscal years 2009 and 2010," the department wrote.

DHSS officials promised to work with the legislature and reevaluate its staff resources to better attend to all legislative inspection requirements.

Overall, the health department's performance was rated "fair" by the auditor, which is the second lowest of four possible ratings he can give.

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