A Chattanooga Free Times report today says:
"As state inspectors continue to find a record number of violations in nursing homes, two recent reports highlight significant weaknesses in Tennessee’s oversight of health care facilities.In February of this year, R. Neal at TennViews, reported how the legislature was working to protect nursing home owners from lawsuits. The legislation, SB4075/HB4053, was amended in May and instead the legislature voted to create a committee to "study the effects of litigation on the nursing home industry" and report back by Feb. 2009.
An audit by the comptroller of the Treasury identified a number of shortcomings in the Board for Licensing Health Care Facilities, including failure to maintain a list of individuals who have abused, neglected or misappropriated the property of vulnerable individuals.
“That’s a very important function to have: a listing of anyone who is considered abusive and shouldn’t be working with vulnerable people,” said Art Hayes, director of state audit at the comptroller’s office and one of the audit’s leaders. “They’re not conducting all the investigations they should, they’re not holding the hearings timely and they’re not tracking people who are removed from the registry.”
The audit also found that the licensing board failed to investigate complaints in a timely manner, which can keep nursing home patients in dangerous situations and make gathering evidence difficult.
The nursing home industry and its state regulators have corrected many of the problems noted in the audit, said Christy Allen, assistant commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Health’s Bureau of Health Licensure and Regulation. The bureau oversees licensing of health facilities and individuals.
The state performance audit comes on the heels of a May report from the federal Government Accountability Office that lists Tennessee as one of nine states that most often neglected to cite serious violations at nursing homes during inspections between 2002 and 2007.
In federal follow-ups to state surveys of health care facilities, surveyors found that Tennessee inspectors failed to record serious deficiencies 26.3 percent of the time, according to the GAO report."
As Neal wrote:
"Instead of allowing special interests to influence legislation, Tennessee should pursue better regulation and oversight of nursing homes to protect the safety and dignity of patients in these facilities. Who lobbies for the people?"
SEE ALSO: A post from Facing South notes a constant and growing increase in bankruptcy filings for those age 65 and over.