Nursing homes in Illinois must comply with regulations issued by the federal government as well as the State of Illinois. The regulations are extensive and cover a wide array of care-related issues. The Illinois Department of Public Health is the agency which is responsible for determining whether nursing homes are in compliance with regulations.
Nursing home inspections are known as "surveys". There are 2 kinds of surveys: annual licensing surveys and complaint surveys. As the names would suggest, the annual licensing survey is done approximately every 12 months and is a fairly comprehensive evaluation of the nursing home's operations. Complaint surveys are done in response to complaints submitted by health care providers or family members and are more focused on the particular care issues involved. A complaint survey may also be triggered by the nursing home submitting a report of an incident to IDPH as required by regulations.
If the survey team determines that there has been a violation of regulations, they issue a citation called a notice of deficiency. When there is a notice of deficiency, the nursing home is required to submit a plan of correction. Typically, the plan of correction includes steps to address the particular problem and prevent its recurrence and education (or "in-servicing") of the staff.
When a notice of deficiency is issued, the nursing home can dispute the findings of the survey team, and if it is successful, the notice of deficiency is withdrawn. If they are not successful, the nursing home faces penalties, which generally is a fine, but can be as severe as closure of the facility.
We believe that if there is a legitimate basis for filing a complaint against a nursing home after an episode which results in accident injury or death of a resident, there are real benefits to filing a complaint with the Illinois Department of Public Health. First, it forces the nursing home to correct substandard care practices which will benefit all of the residents in the nursing home. Second, the inspection team takes notes of its interviews of the staff and these may be obtained by subpoena in a later civil lawsuit. We have found that the notes often contain helpful evidence which is not otherwise shown in the chart, especially since the interviews are held without the staff being prepared by a lawyer from the nursing home's insurance company.
We are pleased to offer this free service to residents of Illinois nursing homes and their families.
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