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Delaware Hospital for Chronically Ill achieves the highest federal nursing home rating

Eli Chen/Delaware Public Media

A previously low-ranked state-run nursing home in Smyrna has been given five stars--the highest federal rating--for the first time.

The Delaware Hospital for the Chronically Ill had slid from a three to a two star facility several years ago. That rating jumped to a five in the last year.

Hospital director John Oppenheimer says the facility had been struggling in the quality of clinical services it delivered. And in the last year, the hospital focused on measures, such as administering less medication to residents with behavioral issues and more on engaging them in healthy physical activity.

“A number of years ago, we had some issues that were fairly serious to work on," said Oppenheimer. "We’ve had two surveys since then. Both of them had been much improved. That means we have fewer deficiencies and lower-rated deficiencies. And that indicates a lot of progress, especially by the nursing department.”

Oppenheimer became the hospital’s director eight months ago after serving as director at the state’s Emily Bissell Hospital. That facility shut down earlier this year due to structural problems that forced residents to move out.

The Delaware Hospital for the Chronically Ill is one of the state’s larger facilities, with 175 beds and a 74 percent occupancy rate.

State Department of Health Social Services Secretary Rita Landgraf says she remembers how much the facility was struggling when she became secretary. She visited the hospital to commend its staff for the improvements that it has made in a short amount of time.  

“Not only is there a deliberate focus on this continuous improvement, I think they live and breathe it here at the personnel to ensure that indeed every day the patient population is treated in the best way possible," said Landgraf.

According to the national nursing home report card, issued by Families for Better Care, Delaware has also generally improved its quality of care among nursing homes in the last couple years. As of 2014, the First State had a number 5 ranking in the nation.

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