Quality of Calif. Long-Term Care Complaint Investigations Vary
The adequacy of California long-term care facility complaint investigations varies significantly by county, according to data from the California Department of Public Health, the Los Angeles Times reports.
According to the data, from July 2014 to March, long-term care facility complaints across the state remained open for an average of 255 days.
Meanwhile, the average number of days to investigate a complaint was 122.
Los Angeles County Lagging
According to the Times, Los Angeles County -- which is the only county to handle its own investigations instead of relying on DPH -- fared worse than many other areas.
According to the Times, the county accounted for:
- About 23% of all long-term care facility complaints statewide; and
- 56% of open complaints statewide (Sewell, Los Angeles Times, 5/16).
Specifically, the data show that Los Angeles County received the highest number of complaints during the reporting period, with 1,300. The next highest was Sacramento County, which received 433 complaints (DPH report, 5/14).
Complaints remained open in Los Angeles County for an average of 352 days.
Further, the county took 250 days on average to investigate complaints. San Francisco County was the only area with a longer average investigation time, at 260 days.
Los Angeles County also lagged in starting investigations into non-high priority complaints, the Times reports. State law requires that investigations for:
- Serious complaints are launched within 24 hours; and
- Less-serious complaints are launched within 10 days.
While the county launched investigations of serious complaints in a timely manner 99% of the time, just 89% of non-high priority complaints were investigated in a timely manner.
L.A. County Reaction
Los Angeles County Department of Public Health interim Director Cynthia Harding in a memo to the county's Board of Supervisors said that the inspection program has been underfunded. As a result, she said investigators have focused their efforts on the highest-priority cases.
Harding noted that lower-priority cases would not receive as much focus until the county is better funded.
Harding said that the county's "productivity is not accurately reflected compared [with] available staffing and resources," adding that "given the lack of sufficient resources, [the county] worked from a prioritized work plan and has met or exceeded expectations."
Harding also said that the apparent lag in launching non-serious complaint investigations was due to "clerical errors with data entry" that have been corrected.
Meanwhile, a Los Angeles County Department of Public Health spokesperson said that the department is in the process of creating an "aggressive recruitment plan" to hire additional investigators with extra money included in Gov. Jerry Brown's (D) revised fiscal year 2015-2016 budget plan.
Under the spending plan, Los Angeles County's inspection program would receive $41.7 million in annual funding, up from $26.9 million. According to the Times, county officials also are working to shift some investigative responsibility to the state (Los Angeles Times, 5/16).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.