Kaiser Health News reports that the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health allegedly falsified the dates it received complaints about nursing homes in order to circumvent California law and a 2006 court order CANHR obtained against the Department directing it to follow the law. California law requires the Department of Public Health to begin onsite investigations within 10 working days of receiving a complaint about a nursing home, or within 24 hours if the allegation involves the imminent threat of death or serious harm.
The article describes an August 6, 2014 e-mail from an assistant supervisor to County DPH administrators protesting the falsification of complaint dates. She wrote that the department cites nursing homes for fraudulent record-keeping and yet, “here we are falsifying the records.” In the same e-mail, the assistant supervisor, Sharon Geraneo, wrote, “We cannot change the initiation dates of these complaints because of the CANHR lawsuit!”
Another County employee, Kimberly Nguyen, sent a letter on October 7, 2014 to county, state and federal officials detailing the falsification and seeking investigations. Ms. Nguyen, a nurse surveyor for the Department, reported that 11 of 15 complaints (73%) assigned to her had falsified dates. In one case, the Department recorded that a complaint was received 79 days after the Department actually received it. Consequently, the Department is not initiating nursing home complaint investigations in a timely manner.
In her letter, Ms. Nguyen reported that her supervisor knew of the falsification but took no action and that the illegal practice continued even after an August 27, 2014 report by the Los Angeles County Auditor-Controller raised concerns that the Department was not entering the correct dates that complaints were received.
Ms. Nguyen’s letter states, “Falsification is a serious matter and unlawful and our department should know better to not manipulate paperwork to mislead others and the public.”
The article also reports that the Department suspended Ms. Nguyen for five days without pay in May 2014, allegedly in retaliation for exposing the Department’s unethical practices.