Amidst news reports of elder abuse and neglect in assisted-living facilities, nursing homes, and residential care facilities for the elderly (RCFEs) across the state, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has been criticized for its failure to investigate. What did it fail to investigate, exactly? Elderly patients and their families argue that they reported nursing home abuse incidents to the CDPH, yet they contend that the department didn’t investigate those complaints in a timely manner and failed to properly fine the responsible facilities.
According to a recent press release from the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform (CANHR), Governor Jerry Brown has proposed a budget for the coming fiscal year that would “add more than $30 million and about 260 positions for the Licensing & Certification Division of the California Department of Public Health.” Yet, the most surprising part of the new budget isn’t merely about licensing and certification. Rather, as the CANHR suggests, it’s about taking complaints about nursing home abuse investigations more seriously.
To be sure, the press release emphasizes that, usually, when we see such a huge increase in a budget, we assume that “there must have been a huge increase in its workload to justify such an enormous expansion of its workforce.” In the current case, however, “that is not so.”
Given that the CDPH was so behind with investigations—primarily a problem of staffing shortages, the department suggests—it might not come as a complete shock that the department is increasing its staff into order to better handle complaints. As the CANHR explains, the department “is requesting the new positions primarily because its prior methodology for assessing staffing needs failed to consider that inspectors were needed to investigate its vast backlog of complaints or to finish complaint investigations and write reports after onside visits were conducted.”
Requirements to Promptly Investigate Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect
Nearly a decade ago, a San Francisco Superior Court Judge ordered the CDPH to promptly investigate allegations of nursing home abuse and neglect, which the department claimed it couldn’t do despite a recent $20 million budget increase for hiring investigators. A backlog of elder abuse complaints existed ten years ago at the department, and money didn’t seem to correct the problem.
Will additional finding help the CDPH to handle its current backlog and to properly investigate complaints of elder abuse in a timely fashion? While the $30 million going toward new jobs in the department will certainly help with the workload, it looks as though it still will have problems with prompt investigations. As the CANHR points out, “even with all the new positions,” the department believes that “it will take approximately four years to complete the current pending investigation workload.” And, that estimate doesn’t include new cases that are likely to come in during 2015.
Do you have an elderly parent or loved one who has suffered injuries as a result of nursing home abuse or neglect? It’s very important to discuss your case with an experienced San Diego elder abuse lawyer as soon as possible. Contact the Walton Law Firm today.
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