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Responsible Parties at All Levels Should Be Held Accountable for Abuse and Neglect in Nursing Homes

Michigan Protection and Advocacy Service (MPAS) released information highlighting two nursing homes in Michigan where the state’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) reported to have maggots infesting residents’ tracheas and catheters. The information had been collected from surveys taken and distributed by LARA, which is the state agency responsible for licensing and oversight of nursing homes in Michigan. LARA routinely provides these reports to MPAS and other organization.

After MPAS released the information to the public, LARA responded by saying that the department was aware of the maggot cases from complaints filed by the Bureau of Health Systems. According to LARA, the nursing homes have been fined, penalized and required to bring their facilities into compliance. 

“Paying fines and re-training personnel is simply not enough to ensure patient safety and quality of life.  The problem of substandard care is system wide and extends far beyond one or two facilities,” says Elmer L. Cerano, executive director of MPAS. “Systemic problems require systemic remedies. The current regulations and laws (mandatory reporting) already in place should be enforced on a consistent basis and to the fullest extent possible. All parties should be held accountable and, if the infractions rise to the level of criminality, they should be reported to law enforcement and prosecuted just like any other crime.”

“In addition, nursing home owners and operators of persistently poor performing facilities should not be allowed to do business in the state of Michigan. While LARA is working within the constraints of the present system – investigating, requiring a plan of correction, and follow-up visits – the current systems do not prevent abuses from happening in the first place,” Mr. Cerano said.

All health care personnel are considered “mandatory reporters” and as such, are required by law to report to adult protective services cases of suspected abuse, neglect or exploitation. Under Michigan law, nursing home personnel who fail to report suspected cases could be found in violation and subjected to prosecution.  In addition, employees who report cases to nursing home supervisors are protected from retaliation.  

Michigan currently has a background check process for all nursing home employees who have been convicted of abuse, neglect, or exploitation of residents within those facilities.  MPAS is concerned however that the current registry has been ineffective in assuring that employees for whom allegations of abuse, neglect or exploitation have been verified are on the list and are still working within nursing homes. 

MPAS is working to close that loophole in the law by supporting a series of bills that would expand the Background Check process. 

In 2011, MPAS released a comprehensive public report highlighting numerous examples of abuse and neglect of individuals in nursing homes throughout the state. The report included recommendations on what must be done to stop the abuse and neglect of Michigan’s nursing home residents.  

The mission of MPAS is to advocate and protect the legal rights of people with disabilities and, in doing so, strongly believes that the confidentiality of those who have been abused and neglected should be protected at all costs. Abuse is not the victim’s fault, and the focus of all investigations should be on the abuser, not the abused.

Any individual who suspects abuse or neglect against an elderly or vulnerable adult should report to Adult Protective Services, the Michigan Long-Term Care Ombudsman, or local law enforcement.

Quality comparison information on nursing homes in Michigan can be viewed at www.medicare.gov. This website uses a Five-Star Quality Ratings system, lists health inspection reports, nursing home staff data, and other quality measures. 

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Posted on:
December 18, 2012