Lack of Oversight from the California Department of Public Health?

Earlier this month, the Sacramento Bee ran a story that exposed the lack of oversight from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) when it comes to nursing home abuse allegations. What is going on? According to the article, the CDPH is “weighed down by a backlog of more than 11,000 open complaints” with “no clear path to dig its way out.”

Evidence of this serious problem became cID-10045437lear after an audit report was released toward the end of October 2014. In short, the CDPH appears to have failed elderly adults in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities by failing to manage its investigations of elder abuse complaints received.

Numerous Problems “Up and Down the State”

While the Sacramento Bee was among the first newspapers to run the story about the recent CDPH audit, the report makes clear that the investigation problems exist far beyond northern California. Indeed, from San Diego up through Mendocino County, it looks as if the CDPH has not taken proper care with the elder abuse complaints it has received. To be sure, the audit showed that, “up and down the state,” a number of different district offices “were found to be inconsistent and haphazard in their handling of complaints, investigations, and corrective action plans.”

The report showed that department officials readily acknowledged the problems the CDPH has had with regard to investigating complaints, and many of those officially actually agreed with recommendations that came out of the audit. However, the CDPH has shown tremendous resistance when it comes to establishing a time frame for completing the investigation of a complaint. The CDPH indicated that it “recognizes the importance of timeliness,” but it rejected the notion of setting a specific time limit for investigation on each complaint.

Serious Problems that Were Not Investigated

The backlog of complaints—those cases that are still open—involve allegations of elder abuse that could have very serious repercussions. As the article emphasizes, many of these complaints are “not trivial.” Indeed, the auditor discovered that “40 percent of the unresolved concerns and allegations had been given high priority by the department,” which means that “the reported problem had caused or was likely to cause harm to a resident.”

For example, the Sacramento Bee described one case of elder abuse that was reported in April 2012. According to the auditor’s report, the state of California failed to even assign anyone to investigate the complaint until August 13, which was nearly a year and a half after the incident. By that time, the injured resident had left the nursing home, and the certified nurse assistant who had been implicated in the abuse got away with a mere warning. And this case represented a “high-priority” case for the CDPH.

Lower priority cases went unresolved for particularly long periods. The audit suggests that, for those cases not marked as high priority, the average time between complaint and investigation was about 3,500 days on average—or, in other words, ten years.

If you suspect that your elderly parent has been the victim of elder abuse at a long-term care facility in California, it is extremely important that you contact an experienced San Diego nursing home abuse lawyer.

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