Appeals Process for Nursing Home Citations Draws Fire
The majority of fines levied against nursing homes in California are appealed, a process that can cause lengthy court battles and impact patient care, according to a nursing home reform advocate, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat reports.
Pat McGinnis, executive director of California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, said the appeals have overburdened the court system, postponed rulings in cases and depleted a state fund created to improve elderly care.
About $2.1 million of the $3.3 million in fines assessed statewide in the past year are on appeal, according to McGinnis.
In Sonoma County, for example, the Department of Health Care Services since 2005 has issued 38 citations to 13 of the county's 24 nursing homes, according to state documents.
The citations carry fines totaling $316,000, but the state so far has collected only $38,000 from the penalties. The remaining cases are under appeal.
Betsy Hite -- spokesperson for the California Association of Health Facilities, which represents 1,000 of the state's 1,400 nursing homes -- said facilities have a right to appeal a citation because a state investigator could have been wrong or overzealous.
Norma Arceo, a spokesperson for DHCS, said nursing homes can ask for an administrative hearing or go through the courts to file an appeal. Arceo said she was unaware of any backlog in appeal cases but added, "It's a process that needs to take place and that is lengthy" (Payne, Santa Rosa Press Democrat, 7/30).