The Cheyenne HealthCare Center is seen Tuesday, June 11, 2019, on East 12th Street in Cheyenne. The center has made the Medicare/Medicaid’s Special Focus Facility Initiative list. Michael Cummo/Wyoming Tribune Eagle

CHEYENNE – A local nursing home continues to be closely monitored by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services amid quality of care concerns.

Cheyenne HealthCare Center, located at 2700 E. 12th St., is one of 88 “Special Focus Facilities” failing to meet CMS compliance standards throughout the country. Fewer than 1% of American nursing homes are currently on the list.

Five other locations in the state are among 400 focus facility candidates that consistently perform poorly. Those are the Sheridan Manor in Sheridan, the Wyoming Retirement Center in Basin, the Shepherd of the Valley Rehabilitation and Wellness in Casper, the Westward Heights Care Center in Lander and the Thermopolis Rehabilitation and Wellness in Thermopolis.

Facilities added to the list are subject to more unannounced inspections. Each must graduate within two years or risk termination from federal health-care programs.

“These typically are facilities that have sort of systemic issues with quality and safety that has been discovered through their annual nursing home survey,” said Kate Goodrich, the director of CMS’ Center for Clinical Standards and Quality, in a recent conference call. “CMS enters every nursing home approximately once a year and conducts an unannounced inspection survey. The agency also conducts inspections whenever a complaint is received about the nursing home.”

After 12 months in the program, Cheyenne HealthCare Center’s most recent inspection revealed “significant improvements,” according to CMS.

Still, in the past few years, the nursing home has been hit with thousands of dollars in federal fines after inspectors found instances of preventable patient injury, questionable mental health care and record keeping oversights.

According to one CMS report, a resident fell and sustained a leg fracture at the facility last year after a nursing assistant failed to check the resident’s care plan. Medical information showed the resident required help from at least two staff members to get dressed, but the employee attempted to dress the resident alone, causing the injury.

After the incident and prior to a July 2018 CMS survey, residents received new fall assessments and employees were updated on lift and transfer policies, abuse and neglect prohibition and fall prevention.

On another occasion, staff overlooked a patient’s serious psychiatric condition by failing to complete a pre-admission mental health evaluation. The patient had a well-documented diagnosis, but when surveyors interviewed a social service manager, she was still not aware of the person’s condition, according to CMS documents.

Last July, inspectors cited the facility for improperly storing and preparing food, noting excessive grease build-up on the kitchen’s hood system.

“There was also visible grease build-up in the removable vents,” the inspector wrote in the report. “Observation showed the grease continued to drip off the edge of the hood.”

At the time, facility and district managers said it was an ongoing maintenance issue; however, a weekly sanitation checklist included cleaning the hood vents.

There was also black dust build-up on the walk-in refrigerator’s fan and surrounding ceiling area.

But Cheyenne HealthCare Center will likely graduate in the coming year – about 90% of SFF nursing homes successfully leave the program, while another 10% are terminated.

To see the inspection reports in full, visit www.medicare.gov/nursinghomecompare. Cheyenne HealthCare Center ownership did not respond to request for comment by press time.

CMS encourages anyone choosing a nursing home to extensively research each facility. This includes talking to staff, residents and other families, checking any potential survey history and asking staff what they are doing to improve the quality of care.

Tom Lacock, associate state director for AARP Wyoming, said state lawmakers are looking for ways to support family caregivers to ultimately reduce the budgetary impacts of Medicaid on the state.

“The state pays nearly $140 million per year for folks to be in nursing homes through the Medicaid program when they can’t afford nursing home care on their own,” he said.

Those looking to place their family member in a temporary or residential nursing facility can find AARP’s nursing home checklists at www.aarp.org.

Chrissy Suttles is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s business and health reporter. She can be reached at csuttles@wyomingnews.com or 307-633-3183. Follow her on Twitter at @chrissysuttles.

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