Audit Critical of State Nursing Home Oversight
The Department of Health Services has not responded within the legal timeframe to almost half of the complaints about safety at nursing homes and has not completed about 60% of investigations promptly, the State Auditor said in a report released Thursday, the Sacramento Bee reports.
For the report, about 17,000 complaints filed over a recent two-year period were investigated. The auditors found 35 cases in which state inspectors cited nursing homes and concluded that the penalty should have been more severe in nine of the cases.
Kathleen Billingsley, who heads the nursing home oversight unit of DHS, said the department believed that only two of the 35 cases warranted more serious citations than were issued. Billingsley disputed the conclusion of the report, saying that the findings are outdated and that the department is now on track to handle 96% of complaints on time.
The department is under a court order to respond more quickly to complaints after a lawsuit was filed last year citing a backlog of complaints that were not being investigated.
Billingsley attributed the delays to staffing shortages caused by budget cuts and competition to hire registered nurses, who conduct the inspections. However, Billingsley said the licensing and certification branch of DHS has used $20 million in new funds to hire more than 100 workers and improve its performance (Benson, Sacramento Bee, 4/13).