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Complaints against nursing home care and backlogs in home care licensure continue to rise

Milton Pratt
Delaware Public Media

The Joint Finance Committee raises concerns over how last year’s funding for nursing home salary increases has been spent.

Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) Division of Health Care Quality (DHCQ) Director Corinna Getchell says Delaware has been seeing an increase in more serious long term care facility complaints and deficiencies.

Reports of alleged abuse, neglect, mistreatment, or financial exploitation increased by 51% in 2023, along with a 75% increase in individuals placed on the Adult Abuse registry.

Getchell says provider turnover and retention contribute to the issue and while the Joint Finance Committee allocated $10 million in raises for nursing home staff last year, the department says they can’t ensure the funding goes to the providers.

State Rep. Kim Williams (D-Newport) says she would be hesitant to give out any more money until they know the funding is reaching the staff and not just the homes.

“We’re not sure if it’s actually going to increase salaries, which means it would help with retention. So, for me, that’s not– I’m concerned about the investment that I made.”

Gilpin Hall Nursing Home Executive Director Paul Smiley spoke during public comment and said while they have not yet officially received the allocated funding, it's already "long gone."

Gilpin said it did go toward increased wages and sign-on bonuses, but the home continues to lack proper staffing and is "struggling to survive."

DHCQ is also facing a growing backlog in granting home care agency licenses.

Getchell says 280 home care agencies are currently seeking initial licensure and 34 binder reviews are in progress.

State Sen. Stephanie Hansen (D-Middletown) says one of her constituents has been waiting for approval to open a home care agency for two years and believes speeding up the process would help with ballooning Medicaid costs.

“This would be providing services to people to keep them out of nursing homes, to keep them out of the things that have blown up our Medicaid budget to the 94 or so million dollars that we were just recently talking about," Hansen says.

Getchell says they are looking at offering overtime to compliance nurses to review the binders, but says the staff is often caught up in surveying current healthcare facilities and investigating complaints.

She adds there are currently no vacancies in compliance nurse positions.

Before residing in Dover, Delaware, Sarah Petrowich moved around the country with her family, spending eight years in Fairbanks, Alaska, 10 years in Carbondale, Illinois and four years in Indianapolis, Indiana. She graduated from the University of Missouri in 2023 with a dual degree in Journalism and Political Science.