California Nursing Homes Face Abuse Probe

The recent Elder Justice Act, a provision of the federal health reform law, is partly responsible for a U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) probe into <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/practice_areas/nursing_home_negligence">abuse and neglect in Northern California nursing homes, said California Watch.

President Barack Obama signed the law in March; the Act seeks to prevent “elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation” via collaboration with the U.S. attorney general’s office and other government interests, explained California Watch. The DOJ is looking into complaints of negligence and is considering civil or criminal charges, noted California Watch.

Inappropriate use of psychiatric medications, poor care leading to illness or injury, discharging ill patients, and refusal of admittance to patients returning to facilities from a hospital are among the issues being investigated, said California Watch, citing a statement concerning the investigation. The San Francisco DOJ hired a consultant who questioned local elder care ombudsman facilities about the complaints, said California Watch, which noted that such offices are able to accept and review these claims, but are unable to approve nursing home facilities.

The consultant followed up with a report that was submitted to prosecutors, said California Watch. According to Jack Gillund, a spokesman for the DOJ, the report is not publicly available while it remains part of the investigation and also points out that complaints can still be submitted to a local ombudsman office of the California Department of Public Health, wrote California Watch.

Interestingly, about two months ago, said California Watch, it reported a drop in elder abuse prosecutions by the California DOJ, which was around the same time the consultant was hired by U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag’s office. “My office is in the process of evaluating the complaints our consultant gathered and will prosecute, to the fullest extent of the law, those individuals who are in violation of federal statutes,” Haag said in a statement, quoted California Watch.

Meanwhile, among some of the information detailed in the report, including data pointing to a prosecution decline and case dismissal increase, the report described one dismissal in particular. The case, in which there were also no charges, involved prosecutors accusing a nursing home owner of trying to bribe a state inspector, said California Watch.

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