California Nursing Home Negligence Could Increase with Lack of Oversight
A watchdog group, which is tracking nearly 1,600 nursing homes and assisted living facilities in northern California, is saying that it expects to see an increase in California nursing home negligence and abuse statewide. According to a News 10 report, Ombudsman Services of Northern California has lost two-thirds of its staff because of California budget cuts and the program’s administrator, Joan Parks, is saying that she is already seeing evidence of nursing homes and assisted living facilities taking advantage of this lack of oversight.
This is not something that’s happening only in northern California. In October, we reported about the loss of funding at the Orange County Council of Aging. Their ombudsmen have been doing an excellent job of making unannounced visits to local nursing homes and have detected cases of nursing home abuse and negligence. This group lost 55 percent of its program funding for the year and was forced to lay off almost all of its paid part-time field ombudsmen. This happened after Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed $3.8 million in state funding for long-term care ombudsman programs across California.
Apparently, even unpaid volunteers are being affected by this cut in funding. Some volunteers say they had to quit because they were no longer being reimbursed for mileage. Assemblyman Dave Jones (D-Sacramento) has co-authored legislation to restore funding for these ombudsmen. AB 392 would direct money to the programs from fines levied against nursing home operators who violate the law. We can only hope that this legislation passes and restores funding to this worthwhile group of people who were rendering invaluable service to California’s seniors and their families.
This state funding cut is disturbing news when we consider the consistent increase of nursing home negligence and abuse cases nationwide and in California. According to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report in 2003, the magnitude of serious deficiencies that harmed nursing home residents remains “unacceptably high.” One in five nursing homes nationwide – about 3,500 facilities – have serious deficiencies that cause residents actual harm or place them in immediate jeopardy, the report said. Moreover, the GAO report also found significant understatements of the care problems that should have been treated a lot more seriously – pressure sores, severe weight loss and multiple falls resulting in broken bones and other injuries.
If you or someone you love has been the victim of California nursing home negligence or abuse, please contact a reputed California nursing home negligence and abuse lawyer to find out more about your legal rights and options. It is also very important for families who are looking to place their loved ones in nursing homes to carefully examine the history and track record of these facilities. The California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform’s Web site has some excellent guidelines on what to watch out for when you are looking for a nursing home.