Department of Public Health Takes “See No Evil, Hear No Evil”
Approach to Nursing Home Abuse
In a disgraceful last minute effort to kill AB 348 (Brown) – a CANHR sponsored bill that would have set timelines for investigations of abuse and neglect cases reported by nursing homes – the Department of Public Health continued a long tradition of siding with perpetrators of abuse against their victims by taking an official position opposing the bill. As a result, this critical bill died in the Senate Appropriations Committee.
The Department receives thousands of reports of suspected abuse and neglect from nursing homes each year and often puts the most serious cases of mistreatment on the bottom of its investigation file. Some investigations are delayed for years, leaving residents at risk and sending a terrible message to operators and the public that abuse and neglect are tolerated.
AB 348 was introduced to fix this problem by requiring the Department to complete investigations within 60 days beginning in July 2018. Interim timelines would have phased in beginning in July 2016. A budget bill (SB 75) passed this summer applies these timelines to complaints filed by the public but it did not address abuse and neglect reports filed by nursing homes.
The Department took its stance against AB 348 shortly after the Legislature gave it funding in June to add over 300 new positions – an extraordinary increase – for its Licensing and Certification Division and its counterpart in Los Angeles County. After representing to the Legislature that this vast expansion of its workforce would allow it to perform all of its workload, the Department now says it needs more than $18 million and more than 100 additional employees to investigate abuse cases that it is already funded to investigate.
Although the chronically mismanaged Department has been going through the motions this year of appointing new leaders, assessing itself and claiming to hold itself accountable, it is abundantly clear that nothing has changed. For years the Department of Public Health has been turning its back on victims of nursing home abuse and it has done so again.
The Department of Public Health stood alone in opposing AB 348. The bill had widespread support from numerous organizations, individuals, and the nursing home industry and had won unanimous support from the Legislature before being held in Senate Appropriations due to the Department’s fabricated cost estimate.