A report by Kaiser Health News states that Los Angeles public health officials instructed their inspectors to close nursing home neglect and abuse cases without fully or properly investigating them. According to the report, officials did so as part of their effort to reduce the backlog of nursing home health and safety complaints. The effort, which was known as “Complaint Workload Clean Up Project” had been ongoing since the summer of 2012, according to memos circulated among managers, inspectors and supervisors at the department. Nearly one-third of the 1,286 nursing homes in California are in Los Angeles County.
Investigators Ignored Serious Allegations
Officials with the California Department of Public Health issued a statement saying they did not approve this practice and that they have ordered Los Angeles County officials to discontinue the practice immediately saying that the county’s approach conflicts with the policies and protocols of the California Department of Public Health.
The federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is also conducting a separate inquiry into this matter. According to the documents, Los Angeles County public health officials stamped “No Action Necessary” on health and safety complaints relating to nursing home neglect and abuse. However, the memos instructed them to fully investigate complaints that were high-profile, particularly if they were part of a lawsuit involving alleged abuse or neglect at a nursing home. Many of the ignored complaints had to do with complaints such as insufficient staffing, staff misconduct and unsafe conditions such as bedsores and giving patients unnecessary medications.
An Unconscionable Decision
There is no question that the approach adopted by the Los Angeles Department of Public Health to sweep serious concerns about nursing home abuse and neglect under the rug is unacceptable. The county has the duty and legal responsibility to thoroughly investigate complaints about nursing homes. Any complaint should be taken seriously. There are other egregious types of complaints that may not have cause injury or death, but are still important because they could seriously harm someone in the future.
Apparently, investigators have brushed off thousands of cases except those that led to a lawsuit or those that are “high-profile.” This makes it all the more important for anyone who has been a victim of abuse or neglect to discuss their situation with an experienced Los Angeles nursing home lawyer who will fight for their rights and ensure that all the facts come out. It is morally unconscionable for a county agency entrusted with being a watchdog for public health to conveniently dump consumer complaints without even looking at them. Someone needs to be held accountable here.