Nursing home mergers can lead to issues with quality of care.

Can Nursing Home Mergers Hurt Patients?

Healthcare mergers have hit an all-time high in 2017, following a trend that seems likely to continue into the next decade. According to Stuart Lindeman of Mission Health Communities, “Over the next 5 to 10 years, we will see a ramp up of acquisitions in this area.”

Nursing home mergers can adversely impact the quality of care.

And by all appearances, Lindeman is right. On September 1, 2017, PinnacleHealth joined UPMC to become UPMC Pinnacle. On September 5, Tenet Healthcare Corp. agreed to sell its Philadelphia hospitals to Paladin Healthcare. That same day, Cooper University Health Care, Lourdes Health, and St. Frances Medical Center agreed to merge. (Note: That’s all within a one-week period.)

Closer to home, that same week The Ensign Group acquired Desert Blossom Health and Rehabilitation Center in Mesa, Arizona, and Pueblo Springs Rehabilitation Center here in Tucson.

But are all these health and nursing care mergers really serving the interests of the patients? It doesn’t look like it.

Non-Profits Are Better Rated than For-Profits

According to a recent USA Today study, for-profit nursing homes offer objectively worse care than non-profits. The government rates nursing homes on a five-star rating system. On this system, 27 percent of for-profit nursing homes received a one-star rating, compared to 13 percent for the non-profits. On the other end of the scale, only 9 percent of the for-profits received a five-star rating, compared to 19 percent for the non-profits.

Most of the difference in quality is related to the cost-cutting practices of nursing homes.

As the commercialization of nursing homes progresses, the conglomerates that purchase them try to reduce running costs to ensure profitability.

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One of the results of this race to cut costs is that for-profit nursing homes let go of personnel to save on payroll. This lack of adequate staffing directly contributes to the decline in the quality of service among the for-profit nursing homes. When low quality care leads to nursing home abuse, loved ones can be seriously injured.

When Fines Aren’t Doing Their Job after Nursing Home Mergers

Of course, government regulators do what they can to maintain the quality of care among nursing homes. The main accountability practices involve placing facilities on a state watchlist or imposing fines.

But when healthcare conglomerates acquire nursing homes, they generally find it more cost-effective to pay the fine than to hire sufficient staff to improve their service. Neil Gehlawat, who represents a woman in a lawsuit against one such facility, says, “When you’re looking at these large corporations, that’s just the cost of doing business. It doesn’t have the effect of changing behavior.”

As more and more nursing homes are acquired, stiffer protections will have to be put in place to maintain quality of treatment. Existing fines, which are sufficient to ensure quality among non-profits, will not provide a strong enough incentive to large corporations.

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Tucson Law Office
The Khalidi Law Firm has more than 20 years of experience helping injured persons in the Tucson area get the closure they deserve. If you or a loved one has suffered negligence, injury, or abuse in a nursing home or adult care facility, contact our Tucson nursing home injury lawyers at The Khalidi Law firm.