NURSING HOME REFORM: Coalition Forms To Develop Plan
A coalition of state regulators, patient advocates and industry representatives met Thursday in Sacramento to begin developing a comprehensive plan for reforming California's nursing homes. The push comes in response to a "scathing federal report" released this summer that implicated 63% of the state's nursing homes in the death or harm of residents (see past CHL coverage). The federal General Accounting Office report painted a bleak picture of verbal and physical abuse by "overwhelmed workers." Thursday's meeting, sponsored by the American Association of Retired Persons, was the first in a series of forums the coalition hopes will produce a "consensus plan to present to the next governor and Legislature addressing the widespread problems in the state's 1,470 nursing homes." The coalition includes representatives from the California Health Care Association, the Gray Panthers, the state Commission on Aging, the National Senior Citizens Law Center and several state legislators.
What Is To Be Done?
The Sacramento Bee reports that members of the coalition "were at odds about how to achieve" their goals. Ila Swan, "a Solano County woman whose study of death certificates of nursing home residents helped spark the 1998 GAO investigation," she said "would like to see a mandate for better staffing coverage at nursing homes, and more rigorous enforcement of state and federal regulations." But Susan Doerr, consultant for the AARP, believes nursing homes may be "overregulated," saying, "They are regulating the creativity out of this business." The coalition will hold at least two more meetings, moderated by Doerr, before it will draft recommendations for policymakers.
California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform released a report in conjunction with the meeting that called the state's nursing home regulatory system a "paper tiger" that rarely prosecutes incidents of patient neglect and abuse. The report observed that the "state collected only 23% of more than $5 million in fines assessed against nursing homes in 1996 and 1997." Attributing the current crisis to the "corporate chains who profit from poor care," the report highlighted the unequal distribution of these profits -- CEO's salaries jumped 80% in recent years while hourly wages for the average nursing home worker inched up less than 5% to a mere $7 per hour (Hubert, 10/16).