Reforms Bring Greater Oversight and Accountability to California Nursing Homes

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California nursing homes will receive further scrutiny this year as part of a new set of reforms to increase transparency and oversight of the state’s more than 1,200 facilities.

The changes come as they continue to fight the devastation caused by the coronavirus pandemic. More than 9,500 nursing home residents and staff have died from illnesses linked to COVID-19, according to data from the California Department of Public Health.

Advocates for residents say the pandemic has exposed long-standing problems in the industry, including inadequate oversight, lax licensing requirements and a business structure that allows owners to reap financial rewards despite the provision. substandard care.

“Many changes were needed to improve surveillance and quality in California nursing homes,” says Nina Weiler-Harwell, associate state director for AARP California.

In October, Governor Gavin Newsom (R) passed five bills aimed at improving nursing home care. The legislation :

  • Require nursing homes to submit an annual consolidated financial statement that includes data from all related businesses.
  • Allow current or former residents or their representative to sue in civil court up to $ 500 for each violation of their rights. Previously, there was a limit of $ 500 on civil damages for each aggregate case, not per individual violation.
  • Increase retirement home citation penalties for violations that result in the death of a resident.
  • Address gaps that allow institutions to avoid paying penalties for providing poor quality care.
  • Require medical directors of nursing homes to be certified by the American Board of Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine within five years of being hired.

Transfers always allowed
In a move that disappointed advocates, Newsom vetoed another nursing home measure that would have partially or temporarily halted residents’ evictions during the COVID-19 state of emergency by stopping involuntary transfers to other establishments.

“Some nursing homes were literally transferring patients to homes with a high number of COVID cases,” Weiler-Harwell explains.

The governor’s actions came after four hours of testimony at a California State Assembly health committee hearing in Sacramento last October.

Kim Valentine, a member of the California Association of Consumer Attorneys, said nursing home owners “are crying poverty” but then use related companies to protect their assets and pay themselves management and administration fees. students.

Deborah Pacyna, director of public affairs at the California Association of Health Facilities, a professional nursing home group, said the new laws “sought to punish all providers for the failings of a few.”

The changes, such as increased fines, could be a particular burden on small family farms, notes Pacyna.

But residents’ advocates plan to continue pushing for change. Requiring facilities to file full financial reports is a good start, but there’s still a long way to go, says Valentine.

“Capitalism is a good thing,” she said during the hearing. “But we shouldn’t be raising billionaires in a system that is primarily funded by our state and federal dollars.”

Learn more about aarp.org/ca.

Barbara kingsley wilson is a writer living in Long Beach.

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