Nursing Home Inspectors “Rushed” Investigations in Los Angeles County

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As many California residents know, our state has made national news over the last year for concerns about nursing home negligence and nursing home abuse.  A recent article in the Sacramento Bee reported that Los Angeles County public health officials, “in an effort to reduce California’s backlog of health and safety complaints at nursing homes,” might have urged inspectors “to close cases without fully investigating them.”  Internal memos sent between managers, inspectors, and supervisors from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health suggest that these quick and potentially harmful case closures are part of an effort called the “Complaint Workload Clean Up Project,” and it has been in effect “since at least the summer of 2012.”

What does this mean for elderly nursing home residents?  In short, complaints at nursing homes and nursing facilities in Los Angeles County might not have been adequately investigated, and county supervisors could be held liable for injuries that occurred.  Do you have a loved one who resides at a nursing facility in Southern California?  At the Walton Law Firm, our California nursing home abuse attorneys have years of experience handling elder law claims and can speak with you today.

Nursing Home Residents at Risk of Inattention in Southern California

What has been happening in Los Angeles County?  Based on information contained in confidential documents, “Los Angeles County public health supervisors, including division chief Ernest Poolean, told inspectors to administratively close complaints submitted anonymously as ‘No Action Necessary.’”  In other words, if the confidential documents prove factual, anonymous nursing home complaints were closed without any investigations.

In addition, supervisors also encouraged inspectors to avoid investigations at the nursing facilities themselves by turning instead to “previous reports about the facility.”  According to the Sacramento Bee, “if two other inspections done around the same time did not reveal problems similar to the new allegation, the complaint was to be determined ‘unsubstantiated.’”

While inspectors did look into higher profile complaints involving abuse and those that had clear connections to ongoing lawsuits, it looks as if a number of complaints may not have been thoroughly investigated.  Ernest Poolean, who serves as Los Angeles County’s chief of the health facilities inspections division, indicated that “the county’s actions were the result of a state push to close cases.”

State and Federal Scrutiny

According to the article in the Sacramento Bee, approximately one-third of all California nursing homes are located in Los Angeles County—nearly 1,300 facilities.  The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has emphasized that it didn’t approve the practices at work in Los Angeles County, and the CDPH “has ordered Los Angeles County officials to immediately discontinue it.”  According to Anita Gore, a spokesperson for the CDPH, the practices involved in the Complaint Workload Clean Up Project run counter to the “policies and protocols” of the CDPH.

And it’s not just the state of California that’s taking a closer look at the poor investigative practices used in Los Angeles County.  Indeed, the “federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is conducting a separate inquiry.”  Jack Cheevers, a federal spokesperson, emphasized that CMS only recently learned about the rushed nursing home investigations in Los Angeles County, and there will be increased federal scrutiny in the weeks and months to come.

If you are concerned that an elderly loved one has sustained abuse or neglect, it is important to speak to an experienced nursing home abuse lawyer.  Contact us today to learn more about filing a claim for compensation.

Photo Credit: Neil. Moralee via Compfight cc

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