California State Auditor Claims Department of Public Health Not Properly Investigating Nursing Home Abuse

Law Firm Newswire



Sacramento, CA (Law Firm Newswire) November 21, 2014 – There is a backlog of over 11,000 nursing home abuse complaints in California.

High-priority complaints received by the California Department of Public Health (DPH) relating to the abuse of seniors in the care of publicly funded nursing homes have been allowed to simmer on the backburner for almost a year. A high-priority complaint is one where a resident sustained serious harm.

By law, staff of an elder care nursing home is required to report health changes that may indicate senior abuse. This does not happen often, as many fear the ramifications of reporting. The nursing home could, for example, receive a significant fine.

Elder care in virtually all settings, from private homes to long-term nursing care facilities, is an ongoing concern that will only escalate as the U.S. population continues to age. Seniors are America’s most vulnerable resource. They deserve safe and compassionate care and a prompt response to and the investigation of any abuse complaint they may have.

The California State Auditor released blunt, negative findings and a set of recommendations, but the DPH indicated that it was not in agreement with them. Two suggestions to improve the care and safety of elders in nursing homes included establishing a tracking system to monitor pending grievances and addressing the lack of policies to deal with more than 11,000 pending complaints.

The California-based non-profit group FATE (Foundation Aiding the Elderly) regularly files lawsuits against the DPH to mandate the department to comply with statutory regulations pursuant to the California Health & Safety Code §1420 (“Section 1420”) in a timely manner. They have not had much success up to this point.

The lawsuits request that the DPH Director and Deputy Director “complete investigations of complaints lodged against skilled nursing homes and other long-term health care facilities … in a timely manner; provide a person who lodges a complaint … documentation to enable the complainant to make an informed decision whether to request an informal conference with DPH; hold any such informal conference in a timely manner; notify the complainant within 10 working days of the informal conference of the results of the conference and of the complainant’s appeal rights; [and] complete their … review of the facts underlying the complaint within 30 days as required.”

“It is obvious that the statutory requirements as laid out by the law are not being followed,” said Sacramento nursing home abuse attorney Deborah Barron of Barron Law “This leaves 11,000 year-old reported complaints hanging in the wind. What about newer reported cases? How are those being handled?”

Failure to report a change in a senior’s condition which may indicate abuse to a patient’s family and physician is also in violation of the law. Changes may include, but not be limited to: sunken eyes, confusion, mouth sores, bed sores, broken bones, unexplained bruising, sudden and inexplicable weight loss, fever or thirst and apparent dehydration.

Families that suspect a loved one may be a victim of nursing home abuse can find help in a number of places. “You can also report nursing home abuse by filling out the complaint form found on the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform (CANHR) website at:,” added Barron.

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