Supervisors Vote to Appoint First Inspector General for Skilled Nursing Homes Amid COVID-19 Deaths

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Acting on a motion by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and Board Chair Kathryn Barger, the Board of Supervisors, May 26, unanimously voted to appoint – for the first time – an Inspector General to oversee skilled nursing facilities, which account for more than half of all deaths from COVID-19 in Los Angeles County. The Board also approved bringing in the Auditor-Controller to ensure closer monitoring of skilled nursing facilities immediately.

The Board tasked the Inspector General with developing recommendations on how to strengthen oversight for skilled nursing facilities, and how to improve their operations long-term. Many skilled nursing homes have a history of getting low marks for quality of care, patient satisfaction, and employee pay.

Analysis by the New York Times The week of May 18, found that facilities with a significant number of black and Latino residents have been twice as likely to be hit by the coronavirus as those where the population is overwhelmingly white. These disparities emphatically underscore the need for better testing and infection control.

Serving thousands of residents to who tend to be older and medically fragile, skilled nursing facilities have become the epicenter of LA County’s COVID-19 epidemic. As of May 22, 5,218 residents and 3,140 staff from these facilities have tested positive for the virus.  

Across LA County, 53 percent of all deaths from COVID-19 have been in institutional settings, particularly in skilled nursing facilities.

Supervisors Ridley-Thomas and Barger called for charging the Inspector General with recommending regulatory and policy improvements at the local, state and federal levels, with the goal of enhancing quality of care, ensuring adequate infection control measures, and supporting healthcare workers.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas and Barger’s motion also called for directing the LA County Auditor-Controller to take the lead in designing a publicly accessible dashboard with information about their COVID-19 case totals, testing frequency, mitigation plan status, and other information. The motion also sought to find ways to enhance LA County’s ability to assess the adequacy of mitigation plans and to oversee their implementation.

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