State Says Inspections of Care Facilities Last Year Were Lax
Officials "did a very poor job" last year of inspecting care facilities, performing fewer than half of the required inspections during the 2003-2004 fiscal year, Department of Social Services Chief Deputy Director Robert Sertich said Wednesday at an Assembly budget subcommittee hearing, the Sacramento Bee reports (Benson, Sacramento Bee, 4/28).
The Bee in January requested 2003 inspection data from the state, which officials provided earlier this month. On Sunday, the Bee reported that the data showed that the state this fiscal year will not visit 20% of assisted-living facilities and child care centers scheduled for inspection and likely will not perform 15% of random spot checks of facilities that are required by state law.
Current regulations require the DSS Community Care Licensing Division to inspect care facilities once every five years and perform additional unannounced spot checks at 10% of the state's 79,000 care centers each year. Inspectors also must visit an institution within 10 days of a complaint being filed. The current standards were arrived at during 2003 budget negotiations. The standards were relaxed from original regulations that required CCLD to inspect care facilities once every one to two years.
California has the lowest legal standards for care facility inspections in the country. Most states require inspections of care facilities every one to two years.
Following the change in inspection requirements, the number of citations issued at care institutions decreased by about 10%.
Although state law requires CCLD to adhere to a strict inspection rate, data for 2003 inspections were estimated using a hand tabulation of visits to facilities from the first quarter of this year because state officials failed to keep track of whether they were doing enough facility visits (California Healthline, 4/25).
According to the Bee, federal statistics show that CCLD workers have the highest caseload in the nation.
Sertich called FY 2004-2005 "a low point" in CCLD's history. He attributed the lapses to outdated computer technology, budget cuts and a hiring freeze that contributed to a more than 10% staff vacancy rate.
Sertich said that DSS is updating its computer system and hiring new employees. He added that the department expects to increase its inspections by 20% next year. "We believe we are back on track," Sertich said.
In related news, the Assembly budget subcommittee voted to reject a proposal by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's (R) administration that would have eliminated a requirement to increase the number of random spot checks if inspectors issued an increased number of citations.
The Legislative Analyst's Office on Wednesday asked lawmakers to reject the proposal.
LAO Senior Analyst Lauren Nackman said, "We believe we don't have enough information, or enough accurate and complete information, for the Legislature to adequately monitor whether [CCLD] is meeting the health and safety measures that we are concerned about."
Sertich said the administration believes the proposal is necessary. He said, "We don't see new resources coming in this program next year because of the budget situation."
The subcommittee also approved an LAO proposal that would require CCLD to produce by December a more detailed statistical report on its work (Sacramento Bee, 4/28).