Families dumbfounded by 5-star rating for troubled Brighton Rehab

Family reacts to mixed-message federal regulators are sending about Brighton Rehab

BEAVER, Pa. — Families with loved ones at Brighton Rehab in Beaver County reacted Monday night to a mixed message by federal regulators about the troubled nursing home. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services just issued major fines against the facility, but Brighton’s rating on the Medicare.gov website doesn’t reflect that.

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Mixed message

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Just last week, CMS issued more than $60,000 in fines against Brighton for its coronavirus response, citing the facility for multiple violations of infection control that posed “immediate jeopardy” to residents.

At the same time, the Medicare.gov Nursing Home Compare website shows Brighton with five-star rating for quality of care.

Family members of Brighton residents told 11 Investigates that they were dumbfounded by the conflicting messages of fining Brighton for serious violations while simultaneously giving them a rating that is “much above average.”

"For the people like us who have family members there, who've been positive, people who have family members who died, it's like a slap in the face," said Cheryl Yevak, whose mother is a resident at Brighton who tested positive for COVID-19 but has since recovered.

A new hotline set up for Brighton families provides a daily update on the number of COVID-19 cases at the facility. On Monday, the hotline reported 332 residents who tested positive for COVID-19 to date and 113 staff members. At least 80 residents have died of COVID-19. Under the circumstances, another family member told us a five-star quality rating from the federal regulatory agency is inappropriate.

“It just kind of infuriates me that it's there," said Judith Marie, whose mother had COVID-19 but has since recovered. “The five-star rating is misleading to people who are usually in a very difficult situation.”

Families often use the Medicare.gov Nursing Home Compare website to compare the inspection records of various nursing homes when choosing a facility for a loved one.

CMS suspended ratings

CMS put out a guidance memo in April saying it was putting a pause on its five-star rating system on its Nursing Home Compare website. The agency attributed the change to the suspension of regular inspections and a shift to only targeted inspections for emergency situations during the COVID-19 crisis. The Nursing Home Compare ratings do not reflect any inspections conducted on or after March 4.

11 Investigates looked for a disclaimer on the website to explain that the ratings might not accurately reflect the current situation at a facility but could not find one as of Monday, two months after the memo was issued.

Family members said it’s irresponsible not to update the website or at least put a disclaimer on there because so many families depend on it to help choose a nursing home.

"That's what we're depending on is those ratings from that group to tell us what place is better and which isn't better," Yevak said.

“I’m dumbfounded. It’s families and people who are vulnerable who bear the brunt of the lousy care, that lousy protection,” Judith Marie said. “I think it needs to be changed.”

Federal officials issue major fines for Brighton Rehab’s COVID-19 response despite 5-star rating