Judge: State Agency Must Keep Up Oversight of Nursing Home Care
On Tuesday, a San Francisco Superior Court judge ordered the California Department of Public Health to continue submitting quarterly reports for another six months about its oversight of long-term care facilities, the Oakland Tribune reports.
The ruling is the follow-up to a 2006 court order that called for DPH to improve its oversight and submit quarterly reports demonstrating that the department investigated complaints against nursing homes in a timely fashion.
The order called for investigators to address complaints within 10 days, or within 48 hours if the complaint involved imminent risk of harm to an individual.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
The order stemmed from a lawsuit filed by California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, which argued that the department's investigation delays threatened the health and safety of long-term care residents.
DPH Cites Improvements
DPH claims that it currently is meeting investigation deadlines for nearly all of the 15,488 complaints it has received since April 2007.
Kathleen Billingsley, deputy director for DPH's Center for Health Care Quality, said only 60 investigations had been delayed as of September 2009.
DPH officials also cited the number of inspections performed and citations issued as evidence that the agency is meeting its watchdog responsibilities.
Others Remain Skeptical
According to a Tribune review of records, DPH has allowed some long-term care facilities to continue operating despite serious and persistent deficiencies.
The review found that some nursing home operators managed to obscure patterns of complaints by changing the names of their companies or facilities.In other cases, the Tribune found that state regulators issued licenses to problematic facilities despite having knowledge of the prior offenses (Woodall, Oakland Tribune, 10/28). 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.