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State Budget Cuts Cripple Orange County Nursing Home Watchdogs

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Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has done victims of Orange County nursing home abuse and negligence a huge disservice by vetoing all state funding for the Long-Term Ombudsman Program. We blogged about the staff cuts suffered by the Orange County Council of Aging, a group whose ombudsmen have been doing an excellent job of paying unannounced visits to local nursing homes and detecting cases of abuse and negligence. According to the group’s news release, they lost 55 percent of program funding for the year and was forced to lay off almost all of their paid part-time field ombudsmen. The Governor had vetoed $3.8 million in state funding for long-term care ombudsman programs across California.

This program is now heavily dependent on dedicated volunteers who are willing to take the required 36-hour training program and then complete 10 hours of field training before they can become certified by the state of California to advocate for nursing home residents.

There are any number of examples from Orange County nursing homes and similar facilities all over Southern California, which demonstrate the need for this program. In August, Hemet Valley Health Center was fined $100,000 for the death of a resident because of inadequate care. Here in Orange County, the family of an elderly resident filed a lawsuit against Villa Valencia in Laguna Hills. The assisted living facility allegedly delayed calling 911 for 24 minutes while a resident bled to death from an injury suffered in a fall.

Apparently, the Orange County Council of Aging is not the only such agency that is suffering in California because of this huge budget cut. San Mateo County’s program lost $100,000 – a huge chunk of its $500,000 budget, according to this ABC News report. In San Mateo, six staff members and 49 volunteers are taxed with the responsibility of keeping an eye on 487 facilities and handle 2,000 complaints a year.

For all of California, what these cuts essentially mean is fewer visits by ombudsmen to nursing homes and assisted living facilities. These dedicated men and women are the much-needed voice for the most vulnerable residents of Orange County. If you are interested in volunteering to become a state-certified ombudsman for the Orange County Council of Aging, please call them at 714-479-0107 or for more information about their program, please visit their Web site.

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