Only hours before it would become law, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed AB 399, a popular assembly bill that would have required the California Department of Public Health to complete investigations of nursing home neglect and abuse complaints within reasonable time limits and to notify complainants of findings.

According to the California Advocates of Nursing Home Reform (CANHR), abuse and neglect have reached crisis proportions in California nursing homes. We currently have several elder abuse cases in our office that support this belief.

Complaints and facility reports of abuse and neglect have more than doubled in recent years and continue to grow at double-digit rates each year. More than 15,000 complaints and facility reports are expected to be investigated this year.

The California Department of Public Health’s longstanding failure to conduct timely and effective investigations of nursing home complaints is a serious problem. The failures are well documented in a series of government reports, including an April 2007 report by the California State Auditor.

It shows the Department failed to timely complete more than 60 percent of 15,275 investigations conducted between July 2004 and April 2006, and that more than 500 complaints remained open for more than one year.

For nursing home residents, the broken investigation system is a matter of life and death. The slow investigations subject residents to continued mistreatment and also compromise the Department’s ability to collect evidence. Most nursing homes face no consequences for abuse or neglect because the Department substantiates so few complaints (only one in six according to a 2007 study by the California Healthcare Foundation).

This is a serious problem folks. In my practice I have seen it again and again – horrendous acts of neglect in the nursing home setting verified by an “official” investigation, but no citations issued.

Thanks to CANHR for all there hard work on this issue.


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