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.