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State Auditor Finds the Department of Public Health is Placing Nursing Home Residents at Risk
On October 30, 2014, the California State Auditor released a report condemning the Department of Public Health’s systemic mismanagement of nursing home complaint investigations. Assembly Member Mariko Yamada and the Joint Legislative Audit Committee sought the investigation by the State Auditor earlier this year after embarrassing public reports that DPH often took years to complete investigations of severe abuse and neglect in nursing homes. CANHR called for the state audit in testimony at a legislative oversight committee on January 21, 2014.
The central finding of the report – California Department of Public Health: It Has Not Effectively Managed Investigations of Complaints Related to Long-Term Health Care Facilities – is that, as of April 2014, DPH had more than 11,000 open complaints, many of which had high priorities and had remained open for an average of nearly a year. When nursing home residents die from neglect or suffer from abuse, DPH is usually nowhere to be found.
Other key findings include:
The State Auditor made numerous recommendations for improvement, including a call to establish a specific time frame for completing complaint investigations. The defiant DPH response, signed by Kathleen Billingsely for DPH Director Dr. Ron Chapman, rejects this recommendation without explanation. Elaine Howle, the State Auditor, ends the report by criticizing DPH for its lack of accountability. She states: “We believe that Public Health’s lack of accountability has contributed to its district offices’ failure to complete investigations within reasonable time periods.”
DPH leaders appear immune to accountability. The new report by the State Auditor is the third report she has issued since 2007 that raises serious concerns about DPH’s oversight of nursing homes.
Prior Audits of the DPH Licensing and Certification Division by the California State Auditor
April 12, 2007: Department of Health Services: Its Licensing and Certification Division Is Struggling to Meet State and Federal Oversight Requirements for Skilled Nursing Facilities, Report # 2006-106