When a nursing home is labeled as a “Special Focus Facility” (SFF) by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, it is the equivalent of a final warning to shape up or ship out. These are the nursing homes that have continuously poor performance and a history of violations. For many nursing homes, being labeled a SFF is the last stop before they are closed all together.
History Of SFF
The Special Focus Facilities program was started back in 1998 to bring needed attention to nursing homes that were consistently below par in performance and had numerous violations related to inferior patient care. At the beginning, each state submitted their two worst offenders to be in the program, but in 2005, that number was increased to six.
The program is geared to motivate these nursing homes into improving their care by putting them on this watch list. Once they are on the SFF list, they are inspected twice as often and are subject to higher fines if there are violations. It takes 18 months with three inspections or surveys for them to be eligible to be removed from the list. However, this means they will have had to improve enough to removed. If not, they are either retained as a SFF or they can be denied Medicare and Medicaid payments and eligibility.
There are facilities that take this labeling seriously and improve their performance. After all, most of these are for-profit businesses. According to a report done by the Center for Medicare Advocacy earlier this year, 98% of the homes on the SFF list are for-profit businesses. These are homes that are most likely run by large conglomerates and will tarnish the companies name by being on the list of the poorest run homes in the country. Needless to say, if a facility was to loose its Medicare funding, it most likely would be closed very quickly and swept under the corporate rug.
Check The List
If you are looking for a nursing home for a loved one, the first place you need to start your research is on the Special Focus Facility list. Even the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) warn families to do extra research if they are considering a SFF as a long-term care facility. However, the best advice to avoid these facilities all together and find another that is better rated and has a good reputation.
On their website, www.cms.gov, CMS keeps a list of the current facilities on the SFF list. It also shows how long they have been on the list. Some of these homes have been on the list for over three years, apparently not improving enough to graduate off of it nor horrible enough to be cut out of Medicare all together. Regardless, how many people would really choose this facility if they were aware of this history of poor performance?
The Special Focus Facility list should serve as a warning to families who are looking for long-term care. With so many reports of neglect and poor care across the nursing home industry, the SFF list is the bottom of the barrel.