Nursing homes in Los Angeles and elsewhere in California are improving, but many still have a long way to go, according to the latest study of nursing home quality sponsored by the California HealthCare Foundation.

The study finds that 31 percent of all freestanding nursing homes failed to meet the state's minimum staffing standards of 3.2 nursing hours per resident per day, though that was better than the 44 percent that were below those levels in 2001.

And while the average number of deficiencies from regulatory standards dropped to 9.7 per home from 13.2 in 2000, the numbers of homes in "substantial or full compliance" of the federal standard remained largely unchanged at 9 percent between 2000 and 2003.

"There has been a little bit of improvement, but not much," said study co-author Charlene Harrington, a professor of sociology and nursing at the University of San Francisco. "There is a wide variation in quality across all types of long-term care, and I don't think most consumers know that."

A new HealthCare Foundation Web site ( ) rates nursing homes on their staffing, the quality of the facility as measured by number of complaints and deficiencies from regulatory standards, and the quality of care.

The site shows 364 freestanding nursing homes in Los Angeles County, with only two rated above average in all three quality-of-care measures. Nine are rated below average in all three measures, while the rest are mixed.

The study was conducted by examining several databases that maintain records of staffing, inspections by investigators, complaints by patients and families, and reports by nursing homes of their patients' health.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, CLICK HERE.