Lawsuit Alleges Delayed State Response to Nursing Home Complaints
California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform and two relatives of patients who died in nursing homes filed a lawsuit on Monday against the Department of Health Services seeking to compel the agency to respond to nursing home complaints within the required 10-day period, the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Torassa, San Francisco Chronicle, 10/19).
The suit, filed in San Francisco Superior Court, alleges that DHS' delayed responses to complaints exposed nursing home patients to abuse and neglect.
The number of nursing home complaints has increased from 9,650 in 2000 to 15,512 in 2004, according to the state. However, state citations among nursing homes have decreased from 709 in 2000 to 464 in 2004 (Lin, Los Angeles Times, 10/19).
Pat McGinnis, executive director of CANHR, attributed the decrease to delays in investigations (San Francisco Chronicle, 10/19).
The lawsuit alleges that evidence of the complaints disappears before investigators respond (Benson, Sacramento Bee, 10/19).
According to Brenda Klutz, head of the DHS nursing homes division, inadequate state funding and staffing of inspectors often has prevented the agency from meeting the response deadline (Los Angeles Times, 10/19).
DHS spokesperson Lea Brooks said the agency does not investigate all nursing home complaints within 10 days but that investigators respond to the most serious allegations within 24 hours. In addition, Brooks said the agency responded to 40% of all other complaints within the 10-day period
DHS found about 75% complaints in 2004 to be unsubstantiated, according to CANHR, the Chronicle reports (San Francisco Chronicle, 10/19).
Investigations of more than 96% of priority complaints begin within 24 hours, Brooks said (Los Angeles Times, 10/19).
According to the San Jose Mercury News, top priority complaints are those that involve immediate threats to life, while second-tier complaints "allege or have the potential to cause harm" (Beck, San Jose Mercury News, 10/19).
Brooks said DHS has not received a copy of the lawsuit and declined to comment on it (Los Angeles Times, 10/19).
DHS has 30 days to respond to the suit (San Jose Mercury News, 10/19).