Given the sheer number of nursing home abuse complaints that have created a backlog in Southern California, it sounds like good news that state officials are hoping to change nursing home inspection and oversight duties. Indeed, according to a recent article in the Los Angeles Times, officials in Los Angeles County are changing the way they handle nursing home neglect complaints “as part of a drive to better manage a backlog of investigations.”
However, the reorganization may not be sufficient to yield a significant change. To be sure, “some patient advocates say the proposed changes aren’t likely to significantly improve conditions, and could make matters worse.”
Investigation Practices in Los Angeles County
In Los Angeles County, the Governor’s proposed budget would provide substantially more money for enforcement measures when it comes to complaints about elder abuse in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities. With the proposed budget, county officials’ responsibilities likely would be limited to annual inspections, with exceptions made for “the most serious cases affecting patient welfare.” This shift is supposed to help to prevent a future backlog of complaints. Currently, Los Angeles County has a backlog of 10,000 complaints and incidents, and 2,700 “have been open for more than two years.”
Los Angeles County works a little bit differently than other counties in the state. It’s “the only county in the state that is contracted to conduct yearly inspections of the homes and hospitals, as well as investigations of complaints of mistreatment, inadequate care, and other violations of state regulations.” In other counties, state officials bear these responsibilities. And reports indicate that Los Angeles County officials aren’t getting the inspections completed in a timely or proper manner. To be sure, a recent audit showed that officials closed certain complaints without fully investigating them.
County employees attribute the problem to a lack of funding, and patient advocates have expressed concerns that shifting the investigation duties will lead to even greater mismanagement and the suffering of elderly residents in facilities throughout the county. According to Molly Davies, the vice president of Elder Abuse Prevention and Ombudsman Services at Wise & Healthy Aging, “there’s a potential to miss a lot if you don’t have some continuity of the inspection process.”
Need for More Funding
Will a new “division of duties” between state and county employees make a positive difference in the outcome of nursing home abuse complaints? Or is the problem one that could be better handled with a higher budget for county employees? Each year, Los Angeles County receives $26.9 million for its investigation program. In order to properly enforce the law and to hold facilities responsible for violations, county officials estimate that they’d need “twice that amount and an additional 150 employees.” In short, the county believes it could do better work if it had more funding.
And patient advocates also worry that introducing more state employees into the mix simply isn’t a good thing. According to one advocate with the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform (CANHR), “the state has been equally negligent in investigating nursing home complaints.” In other words, reorganization between the county and the state doesn’t seem to be the answer.
Are you concerned that someone you love has been the victim of elder abuse or neglect? It’s very important to discuss your case with an experienced San Diego nursing home abuse attorney. Contact the Walton Law Firm today to learn more.
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