Staff shortages plaguing Virginia’s health facility inspection staff at the hands of budget negotiators
by James C. Sherlock
One of the most important responsibilities of the Virginia state government is to inspect medical facilities and home care providers to ensure that we are safe when we enter their care.
It continues to fail in that responsibility thanks to years of Virginia budgets that consciously ignored the need to increase the staff of inspectors and raise the salaries with which to hire those staff competitively.
I have long reported that the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) Office of Licensing and Certification (OLC) is grossly understaffed. Based on today’s update from OLC, it’s still that way.
This organization only has half inspectors it needs to fulfill its defined responsibilities.
These highly trained and very dedicated individuals, many of them registered nurses, are asked to do for Virginians every day what we ourselves cannot do and what our elected officials have refused for decades to properly fund them.
Consider this the next time you use the facilities and hospitality providers that they are required to inspect for your safety.
We hope that the current General Assembly budget negotiators will take this into account for themselves and their families.
Or the governor sends back the budget until they do.
Due to below-market salaries and benefits, OLC is unable to fill the 78 authorized Medical Facilities Inspector (MFI) positions. Nineteen of them, or a quarter of the total, are vacant today.
This is the tip of the iceberg. I asked VDH if
If all authorized positions were staffed, you would lack the number of inspectors needed to keep the program running as it should. If so, please estimate the gap between the necessary posts and the authorized posts.
In response to my request, they replied:
Our most recent estimate of the additional positions needed for State Licence responsibilities included: home care organizations (14 MFIs, 2 supervisors and 2 administrative support staff) and acute care/long-term care (13 MFIs, 3 supervisors and 1 administrative support staff).
Funding for additional positions could be covered by revenue from license fees collected. However, repeated attempts to raise license fees have failed.
In addition, a request has also been included in the CMS budget for ten additional long-term care MFIs to perform the required tasks. federal responsibilities. (emphasis included in answer)
Doing the math, the OLC needs 115 IMFs to accomplish its state and federal missions. He has 59 on board.
The next time you use a medical facility or home care organization, consider this.
What to do? Perhaps current budget negotiators can consider that they and their families will one day soon use a Virginia medical facility or home care organization and fix all the problem.
Use budget language to increase fees for inspected organizations to fund the need and authorize the additional inspectors needed. These fees have not been increased for 40 years.
Since the industry does not like to be inspected, it will have to fight against this headwind. Saddle up and do it.
The Governor should send the budget back if it doesn’t fix the problem.