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DHS Reports it is Complying with
Court Order to Promptly Investigate Complaints


On September 27, 2006, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Peter Busch ordered the California Department of Health Services (DHS) to obey California law by promptly investigating complaints about nursing home neglect and abuse. The order stems from a lawsuit brought by CANHR and the daughters of two elder neglect victims against DHS due to its routine failure to investigate nursing home complaints within 10 working days.

The court order requires DHS to file quarterly reports on its compliance. Its most recent compliance report was filed on June 1, 2007 and covers complaints filed through May 15, 2007. It reports that DHS is very nearly complying with the terms of the court’s order. The following information summarizes its reported compliance with the terms of the court order.

Backlog Complaints

The court order defines a backlog complaint as any complaint made prior to September 27, 2006 that was not investigated by that date. Under the order, DHS must conduct an initial onsite investigation of all backlog complaints by May 12, 2007.

DHS reports that it had 1299 backlog complaints, some of them years old, and that all of them were initially investigated by March 2, 2007, well before the May 12 deadline.

New Complaints

The court order defines a new complaint as any complaint that is received by DHS on or after September 27, 2006. The order requires DHS to conduct an onsite investigation within 10 working days for at least 80 percent of all new complaints it received prior to April 27, 2007 and a timely investigation of all complaints filed on or after that date.

DHS reports it conducted a timely investigation for 97% of 1919 complaints it received between December 29, 2006 and April 26, 2007. 61 complaints were investigated late (after 10 working days of receipt) during this period.

DHS reports it initiated a timely investigation of all but one of 269 complaints filed from April 27, 2007 through May 15, 2007. The order requires that all complaints be investigated onsite within 10 days during this period.

Some Complaints Not Investigated

According to the compliance reports, DHS determined that some complaints do not merit investigation or are otherwise exempt from investigation under the law. CANHR has expressed considerable concern to DHS about the basis for not investigating these complaints. The compliance reports show that the number of complaints that DHS is not investigating is dropping.

  • September 28, 2006 through December 29, 2006: DHS did not investigate 106 of 1424 complaints (7.44%).

  • December 29, 2006 through April 26, 2007: DHS did not investigate 127 of 2046 complaints (6.21%).

  • April 27 through May 15, 2007: DHS did not investigate 10 of 279 complaints (3.58%).

Next Compliance Report

The next compliance report is due on September 1, 2007 and will cover complaints filed through August 15, 2007.

Feedback Needed

Please let us know how the court order is affecting complaint investigations in your area. Contact Mike Connors at 800–474–1116 or Michael@canhr.org.