Redwood City Police Officers To Begin Inspecting City’s Skilled Nursing Homes
The Redwood City Council last week voted 6-0 to begin an "unprecedented program" under which uniformed police officers will conduct surprise inspections at the city's two skilled nursing homes, the San Jose Mercury News reports. Police officers will visit Sequoia Hospital's Extended Care and Devonshire Oaks at least four times per year but will not visit the city's more than 50 assisted-living facilities or other retirement homes. Neither facility has had any citations in the past five years, according to state records. Officers will inspect public areas -- but not patients' rooms or medical records -- and may talk with residents or observe general conditions. "The officers can look for unusual smells or see if nursing-call bells are constantly flashing with no response ... [o]r talk with people and discover if meals are always late," city council member Ira Ruskin said. Ruskin said his proposal developed from discussions with local seniors and his concern that state budget cuts could reduce state oversight of nursing homes. The visits will be casual and "friendly," Ruskin said. He added, "We are not pointing a finger at anyone, and we don't anticipate finding a lot of problems. But we want to set a policy that shows we are aware and watching, and Redwood City cares about its elderly population."
While administrators from Devonshire and Sequoia said they welcome the officers, they said they do not expect the patrols to be productive. "Most of the people in here, by the time we get them, their dementia is so severe or they're so much at the end of the line they can't even talk. Police aren't trained to handle that," June Dresie, administrator at the 39-bed Devonshire facility, said. "Sending a uniformed police officer with a gun to casually talk to residents doesn't make much sense to me. It certainly could be intimidating to staff and intimidating to residents," Anne Burns Johnson, president of the California Association of Homes and Services for the Aging, added. But Prescott Cole, an attorney for the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, said, "The appearance of a uniformed officer would go a long way toward reminding the people who work in a facility about the responsibility of their care" (Koury, San Jose Mercury News, 5/2).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.