San Francisco — The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has taken an official position opposing AB 348, a bill by Assembly Member Cheryl Brown that would require timely investigations of abuse and neglect reports filed by nursing homes. In fighting to preserve its longstanding practice of ignoring nursing home abuse complaints, the Department of Public Health has once again sided with perpetrators of abuse against their victims.
In recent years, the chronically mismanaged Department of Public Health has been under near continuous investigations by federal and state authorities for its shoddy oversight of nursing homes. A scathing report by the California State Auditor in October 2014 revealed that the Department had more than 11,000 open nursing home complaints, a number that has continued to grow.
The Department often puts the most serious cases of abuse and neglect on the bottom of its investigation file. For example, on November 13, 2013, the Department issued a $100,000 fine to Rosewood Post-Acute Rehab, a skilled nursing facility in Carmichael, nearly seven years after the facility caused a resident’s death on January 1, 2007 by overdosing her on Warfarin, a powerful blood thinning medication.
AB 348, which is before the Senate Appropriations Committee, was introduced to fix this problem by requiring the Department to complete investigations within 60 days beginning in July 2018. Interim timelines would begin to phase in in July 2016.
Pat McGinnis, Executive Director of CANHR, stated: “The Department’s position on AB 348 is a disgrace. It is unconscionable that its leaders are fighting to allow it to continue ignoring complaints about nursing home residents who are suffering from abuse and neglect.”
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 its workload, the Department reversed course in opposing AB 348 and now argues it cannot be expected to investigate abuse and neglect cases reported by nursing homes in a timely way.
The Department’s letter of opposition offers misleading excuses for its position. For example, it claims the bill would force it to investigate insignificant concerns, such as grievances over room temperatures. In fact, AB 348 would require it to investigate facility reported allegations of violations of applicable requirements of state or federal law, such as the right to be safe from abuse. It appears that the Department officials may not have even read AB 348 before opposing it.
AB 348 has near universal support from numerous organizations, individuals, and the nursing home industry and has won unanimous support from the Legislature to this point. The Department of Public Health stands alone in opposing it.