Auditors chastised the New York State Department of Health for failing to enforce the sanctions it imposed on dangerous nursing homes.
According to Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, the health department promptly investigated claims of nursing home abuse, at least for the most part. But, it may be several years before the agency levied a fine against the violating institution. Moreover, according to the audit, the health department issued no fine at all in 85 percent of failed inspections. The monetary amount dropped as well, from $628,000 in 2011 to $152,000 in 2015. Several advocacy groups applauded the results. “We need more accountability, and hopefully this will be a way of getting it there,” said Richard Mallot, executive director of the Long Term Care Community Coalition.
In a statement, the agency insisted that its procedures comply with federal guidelines and that it “is committed to protecting the health and safety of New York’s nursing home residents.”
Nursing Home Abuse
Residents are abused at about a third of the country’s skilled care facilities. In a number of these cases, the violations are serious enough “to cause actual harm to residents or to place the residents in immediate jeopardy of death or serious injury, according to a Congressional report.
These problems are pervasive, in part because of the economics of the nursing home industry. Medicare reimbursements have remained relatively flat at a time when the elderly population is expanding significantly, meaning that there are more residents with more problem. And, in many areas, there is a chronic shortage of qualified para-physicians and other staff who are willing to work in nursing homes.
As a result, vulnerable adults are often the victims of a wide array of abuses, including:
- Neglect: Low staffing levels mean that patients are sometimes left alone in their rooms for hours at a time.
- Resident on Resident Abuse: Low staffing levels also mean that disagreements between residents are allowed to escalate into violent confrontations, and many patients are so frail that only a slight degree of force inflicts serious injuries.
- Staff Abuse: We all get angry and frustrated sometimes, but there is no excuse for taking out this anger and frustration on vulnerable adults.
- Emotional: Phrases like “no one loves you” and “your family has forgotten you” are all too common in nursing homes.
- Financial: In addition to outright theft, some workers coerce or trick residents into signing financial documents.
Unfortunately, it appears that the state is not terribly interested in protecting nursing home residents, so negligence lawyers must fill in the gap.
Nursing home abuse is a persistent problem that seems to be getting worse. For a free consultation with attorneys who correct injustices, contact our office. We do not charge upfront legal fees in negligence cases.