California Sued Over Delayed Nursing Home Abuse Inspections
Nursing home neglect is a major problem nationwide as many facilities are understaffed and personnel are often poorly paid, untrained and unable to provide adequate care. While it is not uncommon for a patient or a patient’s family member to file a nursing home abuse lawsuit after injury has occurred, it is preferable for all involved to prevent abuse before it begins.
When a complaint is made of suspected nursing home abuse, the California Department of Public Health is expected to conduct an investigation to identify problems and stop actions that could be causing harm to vulnerable seniors.
Unfortunately, the DPH may not be fulfilling its obligations and conducting investigations in a timely manner. This can have serious consequences for patients, and it has prompted a Sacramento advocate for the elderly to file a lawsuit against the state.
State failing to investigate nursing home abuse, lawsuit claims
The Foundation Aiding the Elderly (FATE) has filed a lawsuit in San Francisco in an effort to protect seniors from nursing home neglect and abuse. The lawsuit claims that state regulators are “taking months and sometimes years” to complete investigations of long-term care facilities including nursing homes. The lax attitudes towards investigating potential abuse claims not only leaves more residents in a potentially unsafe situation, but it has also resulted in many nursing homes having no concern about the regulators.
According to the lawsuit, the nursing home industry doesn’t worry about being investigated because the state regulators are so lax, and thus the homes do not place a premium on patient safety.
The purpose of the case is to obtain a court order that will require the state regulators to conduct and complete investigations of complaints as well as to process appeals of complaints in a “timely manner.”
To ensure that the regulators act more swiftly, the lawsuit has requested that the court impose deadlines on investigations or enforce existing deadlines for the complaint process. The plaintiffs in the suit are also seeking a court order that would compel the state to complete an annual report outlining how quickly it has responded to investigations.
The Department of Public Health has stated that it cannot comment on pending litigation, but does indicate that it inspects nursing homes at least once every nine to 15.9 months and that the statewide average of inspections is once per year. However, the lawsuit against the DPH is specifically targeting response times to consumer complaints, which should be acted on quickly due to the dangers of elder neglect but which can instead languish for years before an investigation is completed.
Nursing home neglect has serious risks for patients
The president of FATE has first-hand experience with the devastation that nursing home neglect can cause. Her 79-year-old aunt died in a Sacramento home in 1982 and nursing home abuse was suspected to have played a role in the death.
Unfortunately, if regulators do not do their jobs and if nursing homes do not take safety seriously, there may be many more tragic deaths. The population is aging rapidly, with the number of Californians age 65 and up expected to triple between 2000 and 2050. More seniors in nursing homes could mean more potential problems and a more overworked DPH staff who cannot keep up with investigations.
Victims of abuse or neglect should report any suspected problems for investigation, but can also file a nursing home abuse lawsuit to recover compensation. These lawsuits can at least force nursing homes to be held accountable for wrongful actions even if the state regulators are not doing enough to hold the homes accountable.