Tennessee Months Behind in Investigating Reports of Nursing Home Abuse

The state of Tennessee is required to investigate reports of abuse on site within forty-eight hours if there is a risk of “immediate jeopardy”. However, according to an audit that was conducted, some investigations to up to one hundred and forty-six days to start. The Tennessee Board for Licensing Health Care Facilities which is supposed to oversee investigations of abuse has also taken too long to put abusive health care workers on an online registry intended to prevent employers from hiring them to work with patients again. One just one case, it took the board ten months to put someone on the state’s abuse registry.  This is clearly putting our most vulnerable citizens at risk.

According to the report issued by the comptroller during the audit, there are serious s in the oversight of hundreds of Tennessee’s nursing homes, assisted living facilities, hospitals and 24-hour care facilities for people with intellectual disabilities. The board has also allowed unlicensed staff to administer medications in assisted living facilities because its rules haven’t been clear on who is allowed to dispense them. Additionally, auditors found that fines are so low for breaking rules that some assisted care facilities “preferred to pay the fines instead of hiring higher paid licensed staff” to administer medication. The audit also discovered that the board is not ensuring that nursing homes meet fire sprinkler regulations. Many of the findings “jeopardize the safety and welfare of persons” in Tennessee’s licensed health care facilities.

The audit cited a large increase in the number of complaints for creating a backlog for existing staff to investigate. Since 2011, there has been a fifty percent increase in complaints filed against health care facilities. Between July 2014 and September 2015, there were 2,292 complaints. Of these, seven hundred and ninety-two still await investigations and two hundred and sixty-three of cases involve nursing homes.

In response to the audit, the Office of Health Care Facilities noted it had caught up with the backlog of annual health surveys in July. They have also filled six of twelve staff vacancies. Officials plan to roll out an electronic planning system to “enhance efficiency.” The Office of Health Care Facilities also is “in the process of promulgating regulations for the Registry of Persons Who Have Abused, Neglected, Misappropriated or Exploited the Property of Vulnerable Individuals” that will create new procedures for timely reporting to the abuse registry. Finally,the Board for Licensing Health Care Facilities has formed a standing subcommittee to examine rules for who can administer medication. The was no response regarding the board’s failure to ensure fire sprinkler rules are being followed.

If you suspect that a loved one has suffered from nursing home abuse or neglect, you should contact one of our experienced and caring nursing home abuse lawyers with the Higgins Firm. We understand how difficult this must be for you. We will review your case, help you collect any evidence that may be needed for your case and make sure that you receive any compensation you may be entitled to for what you have suffered.

Please contact us today online or by calling 800.705.2121 to discuss your legal options.

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