Why Do the States of Georgia and Tennessee Take So Long to Investigate Reports of Nursing Home Abuse & Neglect?
Placing a loved one in a nursing home or long-term care facility is heart-wrenching enough without having to worry about something terrible happening. And if it does, you expect the proper agencies to take immediate action and investigate. After all, these are usually frail and fragile patients, often unaware of what is going on and unable to stand up for themselves.
But according to a new report by a federal watchdog agency, it’s alleged that reporting nursing home abuse in Georgia and Tennessee falls on deaf ears. Onsite government investigations into nursing home neglect —which should take place within two days of a complaint being filed — can take two weeks or more!
As nursing home abuse attorneys, we find this inexcusable.
Reporting Elder Abuse and Neglect in a Georgia Nursing Home is Important – Be on the Lookout for These Key Injuries
Typically, when a dangerous situation is observed by a family member, a report is filed and the agency that oversees these complaints is expected to investigate immediately. This is especially true with regard to head trauma, bed sores and broken bones, which may indicate abuse. Other red flags include bruises around the breasts or private areas that may signal sexual assault, as well as infections that don’t heal and burns.
Do the Georgia and Tennessee State Agencies Take Reports of Nursing Home Abuse Seriously?
Sonya Hooks, who filed a negligence complaint against her mother’s Atlanta nursing home, alleges she had a hard time getting through to the state to report the problem. Hooks said she had documentation that suggested a serious problem when she made a lengthy complaint to the Department of Community Health. Eventually, the state looked into her allegations and found no negligence on the part of the nursing home. “It’s a totally frustrating process,” she said.
A report from the Department of Community Health alleges that the Georgia nursing home abuse watchdog agency is so overwhelmed with complaints they cannot keep up with the necessary investigations.
Reported Nursing Home Incidents Should be Investigated within Two Days
The rules require an on-site investigation into reports of nursing home abuse or neglect within 48 hours, but this is not the case in Georgia and Tennessee.
According to a study by the inspector general for the U.S. Department of Health, most states adhere to the two day-day mandate. However, Georgia is the second worst in terms of compliance. Tennessee ranks as the worst in the U.S. in terms of response time to nursing home abuse reporting.
Why GA and TN Do Not Appropriately Respond to Reports of Nursing Home Negligence
Money talks, and … well, you know the rest. With campaign contributions and political donations, the fix is in.
Sonya Hooks alleges that Georgia’s nursing home industry contributes frequently to many state-level elected officials. In a statement, she said, “As long as the nursing home lobby pours money into the political campaigns of the politicians that oversee nursing homes, it’s going to stay like that.”
The Department of Community Health affirms their pledge that the health and safety of Georgia’s most vulnerable citizens remains a top priority. According to reliable sources, the DCH requested that the governor of Georgia and the legislature approved the addition of funding in early 2017 to begin immediately addressing issues in the nursing home program.
They contend that the slow response to allegations of patient mistreatment was alleged caused by high staff turnover, job vacancies and low pay at the state agency that oversees nursing homes. But the department has been working to work through the nursing home reports with the addition of an additional $4.3 million in funding.
“Since the funding was approved,” the statement said, “DCH has hired 18 new surveyors and has implemented a program to specifically target the complaint backlog.”
In the meanwhile, some of Georgia’s most vulnerable residents are at the highest risk of neglect and even death.
The Official Report Finds Major Flaws in Georgia and Tennessee’s Nursing Home Abuse Investigations, and That Means Poor Care Across the State
According to the inspector general’s report, in 2015, Georgia and Tennessee were cited for 50% of the late response investigations. Of the 912 immediate jeopardy complaints, the state was untimely in investigating more than 600. In other words, the state failed the people who needed their help the most. It’s interesting to note that even as the number of nursing home intakes decrease, complaints are increasing.
Community Health Commissioner Frank Berry said that a large backlog of complaints about nursing homes had helped lead to “a mess” with federal officials. He cited pay scale as one problem. A possible solution is a merit based system, which rewards inspectors for timely following up on complaints of nursing home neglect in Georgia and Tennessee.
It’s not surprising that lobbyist, Tony Marshall, president and CEO of the Georgia Health Care Association, is quoted as saying, “Most complaints, when evaluated, triaged and reviewed…but complaints are not typically substantiated.”
The Takeaway: Reports of Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect Must be Investigated Immediately Or Else the Standard of Care Drops Precipitously
Regardless of the solution, it is obvious that suspected nursing home negligence events should be looked into timely. If not, the nursing homes can hurt elderly patients with impunity.
This allows the statewide standard in these long term care facilities to drop, if the nursing home knows no one is watching.
Take the Next Step – Contact Senior Justice Law Firm
Here at Senior Justice Law, we believe that’s no consolation to anyone whose loved one is receiving shoddy care or suffering abuse at the hands of the nursing home staff. If your loved one has suffered a serious injury or death inside a nursing home, you can speak with our civil justice attorneys. We work independently of the state and can achieve justice by bringing a nursing home negligence claim against the responsible facility.
We work entirely on contingency fee, meaning you pay us nothing unless we win your case. Please contact us if you have any questions regarding a potential nursing home injury: 1-844-253-8919« Previous PostNext Post »