Audit: State Regulators Lax in Collecting Nursing Home Fines
The California Department of Public Health failed to properly collect fines from nursing homes that violate state regulations, according to a report released Thursday by the California State Auditor, the Sacramento Bee reports.
DPH inspects and grants licenses to about 2,500 nursing homes and investigates complaints against them.
The department can levy financial penalties on facilities that violate regulations and deposit the fines into state and federal accounts. The accounts then pay for temporary management companies to preside over problematic facilities and for an ombudsman program that investigates residents' complaints.
The audit found that between 2003 and 2010, DPH:
- Reduced certain financial penalties inappropriately;
- Did not adjust fines to reflect the rate of inflation; and
- Failed to consistently survey facilities in a timely manner, as required by law (Hubert, Sacramento Bee, 6/18).
The report also found that the DPH overstated the fund balance for the federal penalties account by $9.9 million in fiscal year 2008-2009. The audit estimated that the fund will contain $345,000 at the end of June and $249,000 by June 2011 (Tayefe Mohajer, AP/San Jose Mercury News, 6/17).
In addition, auditors found that DPH failed to resolve between 1,000 and 1,400 appealed citations during the seven-year audit period, which created a potential loss of almost $9 million for the agency.Ralph Montano, DPH spokesperson, said the department agrees with most of the audit's recommendations and is working to address the issues (Sacramento Bee, 6/18). This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.