A new report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General has indicted Georgia regulators for failing to check on the safety and quality of nursing homes in the state. According to the report, published July 2021, more than 90% of Georgia’s nursing homes have not been inspected within the federally required time period.

The report, compiled with data from May 31, is titled States' Backlogs of Standard Surveys of Nursing Homes Grew Substantially During the COVID-19 Pandemic, and it places Georgia second-to-last in terms of how effective the state has been in keeping up with regular inspections.

Since nursing homes receive money from Medicare and Medicaid, the federal government requires that these facilities operate up to federal standards. To ensure that facilities are complying with federal regulation, states are directed to send survey teams into nursing homes and report their findings to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

These inspections are a four-day process called “standard surveys.” Federal regulators require that standard surveys be conducted on a nursing home no less frequently than every 15 months. These inspections are designed to make sure the nursing homes are meeting federal requirements and are therefore eligible to continue receiving federal funding.

The HHS report compiled a full list of states and how compliant they had been in their inspections. In Georgia, 93% of nursing homes had gone at least 16 months without a standard survey, putting them into noncompliance with federal requirements. That means that 335 nursing homes out of Georgia’s 359 homes have not seen regulatory inspection since the start of the pandemic. 

The purpose of these inspections is to impose financial penalties and discuss solutions to health and safety issues with staff. Without these regular oversights, nursing homes that are failing to properly care for their residents can do so without being detected or punished.

While the HHS states that COVID-19 did reduce the rate of inspections, it exhorted states to resume inspections. In the report, the Office of Inspector General stated the deficiencies in inspection “underscores the importance and urgency of our previous recommendation to

CMS to clarify expectations for States to complete backlogs of standard surveys, including by issuing guidance on prioritization of surveys and required timeframes to complete these backlogs.”