California Bill Aims To Hasten Investigations of Nursing Home Claims
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) is considering legislation (AB 399) to require the Department of Public Health to investigate most complaints against nursing homes within 40 business days, the Los Angeles Times reports. The bill includes exceptions for complicated cases.
Assembly member Mike Feuer (D-Los Angeles), who authored the bill, said, "A timely investigation with timely results can make the difference literally between life and death sometimes." He added, "Forty days is plenty of time to conduct a meaningful, finely grained, detailed investigation."
Of complaints received by the state between October 2005 and September 2006, about 60% were not completed within 40 days and half were not finished within 60 days, according to data from the Department of Public Health.
A San Francisco Superior Court judge in 2006 ordered the state to begin investigating nursing home complaints within 10 working days, as required by law.
Following the court ruling, state officials made improvements, but more than 30% of investigations from October 2006 through March 2007 were not completed within 60 days, according to data.
Proponents of the measure argue that better oversight is needed to ensure that problems are corrected and not repeated.
Betsy Hite, spokesperson for the California Association of Health Facilities, said the nursing home industry is not opposed to the measure, adding, "If something bad happened, we don't want that to happen again."
However, the Department of Public Health told the Legislature that it would have to spend an additional $6.5 million annually to complete all investigations within 40 working days.
The governor's press office said he has not taken a position on the legislation (Ornstein, Los Angeles Times, 10/2).