Report: Calif. Failed To Properly Investigate Caregiver Abuse Claims
Over the past 10 years, the California Department of Public Health has not properly investigated complaints of violence and misconduct by nursing assistants and home health aides, according to an investigation by the Center for Investigative Reporting.
Details of Investigation
The investigation found that DPH in 2009 dismissed nearly 1,000 cases of abuse and theft amid a growing backlog of such claims.
According to internal case logs, the complaints included:
- Suspicious deaths;
- Severe injuries;
- Sexual assaults;
- Neglect; and
- Theft of belongings.
Since 2009, an "overwhelming majority" of similar complaints have been closed without action, according to CIR.
In addition, DPH has:
- Decreased the number of license revocations for caregivers accused of abuse or misconduct;
- Largely stopped referring cases to the California Department of Justice for possible prosecution, despite being required to do so by law; and
- Conducted many investigations by phone, without visiting the facility where abuse allegedly took place.
DPH Director Ron Chapman called the findings "very concerning" and said the department is "looking into it."
Chapman said that the agency has made progress since the 2009 backlog, with all complaints being screened within 48 hours of being reported.
In a statement, Anita Gore -- a spokesperson for DPH -- added that the agency is working to address problems found in the investigation, including operations of the Southern California investigations office.
She also denied that DPH investigators were told to close cases over the phone. "If preliminary phone calls and other reviews during a desk investigation determine a field component is warranted, then a field investigation is conducted," she said (Gabrielson, Center for Investigative Reporting, 9/9).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.