NURSING HOMES: State Launches Surprise Inspection Program
State Attorney General Bill Lockyer (D) yesterday announced a new "multi-agency effort to conduct surprise inspections" at California's 1,500 nursing homes, the Los Angeles Times reports. "Operation Guardians" comes on the heels of a November congressional report revealing that less than 3% of Los Angeles County's 439 nursing homes were in "full or substantial compliance" with federal regulations during the most recent annual inspections. Lockyer said, "We want to make sure the problems that currently exist in our nursing homes are aggressively addressed. This is owed to those who contributed their productive years to help the generations that followed." The inspections, meant to supplement routine checks every 15 months, will "focus on nursing homes with the worst records," beginning with those in Los Angeles and then expanding to cover San Francisco and San Diego, Lockyer said. He added, however, that "no facility is immune from a possible inspection." According to the November report from Congress, almost one in five Los Angeles nursing homes had violations that contributed to "actual harm" among residents or "placed them at risk of death or serious injury." And a 1998 General Accounting Office report showed that nearly one-third of all California nursing homes caring for Medicare/Medicaid patients had been cited for "serious care violations." Since then, Lockyer said his office has doubled the state Department of Justice's elder abuse budget to $3 million this fiscal year and increased the number of investigators from 10 to 20. The attorney general's Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse, the state Department of Aging, the Los Angeles County district attorney's office and the Los Angeles Fire Department and safety code enforcement officials will cooperate in the effort. Patricia McGinnis, director of not-for-profit California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, said, "We've waited a long time for the attorney general to make abuse and neglect in California's nursing homes a priority. Now we can tell (nursing home residents) [they] have somewhere to go" (MacGregor, 3/28).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.