The Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services, or CMS, is a federal agency which, among other things, oversees the quality of care in assisted living facilities which accept patients enrolled in Medicare or Medicaid.
The CMS maintains what it calls a Special Focus Facility, or SFF, Program. Nursing homes which land on the CMS’s SFF list or get mentioned as candidates for the list have, to some degree, a proven track record of not following CMS’s health and safety regulations.
Specifically, listed homes have a history of an abnormally high number of safety violations as documented in the home’s regular state or federal inspections.
A home may also wind up on the list for major violations, that is, those which actually involve a patient’s getting sicker or suffering an injury.
Overall lackluster performance on safety inspections, when the shortcomings are significant, can also be a reason a facility gets considered for the list.
Once on the SFF list, a nursing facility will have more frequent inspections. If the home can show improvement, it graduates off the list. Otherwise, the facility may wind up voluntarily withdrawing or being removed from the Medicare and Medicaid programs.
There are facilities in the Washington metro area which are on this list, and others have been listed as candidates for the SFF Program.
The SFF list does not mean there was neglect, but it could be a warning sign
To be fair, the fact that a nursing home is on the SFF list or a candidate for it does not mean there was an incident which injured a patient at all.
It certainly does not mean that a family which suspects nursing home abuse or neglect in a Maryland, D.C., or Virginia facility has a smoking gun for their case.
However, patients and their families should certainly pay attention to this list. If a facility is on it, it could be a sign that the facility simply does not take the health and safety of its patients as seriously as it should.