Many of us know that nursing homes, assisted-living facilities, and residential care facilities for the elderly (RCFEs) in California made national news over the last year for undesirable reasons related to elder abuse and neglect. Even more recently, an audit report exposed serious elder abuse investigation delays within the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). Now, according to an article in the Pasadena Star News, the Los Angeles County Public Health Department has been accused of falsifying the dates on which it received complaints about nursing home abuse.
Why would the department do this? According to two employees, pressure had increased to “meet state deadlines for launching investigations,” and when the department couldn’t comply, it changed the dates of the complaints it had received.
Allegations of Abuse, Falls, and Pressure Sores
When the Los Angeles County Public Health Department decided to change the dates on some of the complaints it received—making it look as if the complaints had arrived to the department later than they actually had—the department didn’t select lower priority cases. Indeed, according to a letter drafted by inspector Kimberly Nguyen, the department shifted the dates of 11 different cases in its computer system, and those cases “involve alleged abuse, falls, and pressure sores.”
Nguyen emphasized the seriousness of these allegations against the department. She explained, “in my belief, falsification is a serious matter and unlawful and our department should know better to not manipulate paperwork to mislead others and the public.” By how many days were some of the dates changed? According to Nguyen, some of the dates of received complaints were altered by as much as 79 days. In other words, some of the fraudulent recordkeeping changed the dates on complaints by nearly 3 months.
Information about the fraud came to light back in early August, but the issue wasn’t properly addressed. Sharon Geraneo, who works as an assistant supervisor in the department, drafted an email to her supervisors citing the problems with the date alterations. In her letter, she accused the department of fining nursing homes for fraudulent recordkeeping while her department was committing similar violations.
Laws Concerning Investigation in California
Under California law, investigations into allegations of elder abuse much begin much more quickly than the department allowed for some of the serious complaints it received. State law requires that “investigations must be started within 10 days of receipt of a complaint.” In the case of an allegation that involves serious harm or the threat of imminent death, the investigation must begin within 24 hours of receiving the complaint.
What’s the relationship between the Los Angeles County Public Health Department and the CDPH? The department in Los Angeles has a contract with the state requiring it to “investigate potential problems at nursing homes.” Nguyen indicated that the department’s investigation practices are “putting patients in harm’s way,” and she emphasized that it should be “held accountable” for injuries that have resulted from its delays.
Have you filed a complaint about nursing home abuse in southern California? Are you concerned about your elderly loved one’s safety in a nursing home or assisted-living facility? Contact an experienced San Diego nursing home abuse lawyer today to learn more about how we can assist you.
Photo Credit: Randen Pederson via Flickr
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