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Audit says nursing home oversight getting worse

By Matt Sepic, KWMU

A state audit says oversight of nursing homes in Missouri is getting worse, noting the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services failed to conduct many required routine inspections last year.

State Auditor and U.S. Senate candidate Claire McCaskill says the department performed fewer nursing home inspections in 2005 than it did in 2003. And 58 facilities received no visit from the state.

"I think families need to be aware that nursing homes in Missouri are not being inspected as they should," McCaskill said Thursday, at a news conference. "The Medicaid beds are not being funded as they should, and that's impacting the quality of care."

The audit also says the department has only implemented nine of 32 recommendations from two previous audits.

But David Durbin-who heads the department's regulation and licensure division-says the auditor is exaggerating.

"We have in fact implemented, or are in the process of implementing 22 of the 39 recommendations referred to in the audit rather than the nine that were referenced in the audit," Durbin said.

Durbin also says the agency is hiring 48 new nursing home inspectors, now that the state legislature has budgeted money to do so.

McCaskill is a Democrat seeking Republican Jim Talent's U-S Senate seat.

In her 2004 campaign for governor she came under fire because her husband, Joseph Shepard, had operated several nursing homes in Missouri. But McCaskill says Shepard no longer runs those facilities.

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