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Federal Regulators Say Ombudsman Issue Violated National Nursing Home Laws

In our area, it is clear that beyond the filing of an Illinois nursing home lawsuit, one of the important ways that local Illinois nursing home neglect is rooted is out is through the use of public inspections. While far from being a one-stop solution, it is very helpful to have at least some systematic inspection and review of the quality of care provided at various facilities by trained inspectors who understand the needs and risks associate with nursing home care. These inspections are similar across the country, as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid often pay for part of these inspections nationwide. This helps to ensure that the federal taxpayer dollars are not being spent on inadequate care to help these senior community members.

However, inspections are only worthwhile if the process by which they are undertaken is fair, impartial, consistent, and without undue influence. Unfortunately, it some states it remains unclear if those guidelines are being met. The Chronicle, reported this week on one state that federal regulators say violated the spirit of federal law-the U.S. Older Americans Act-by curtailing the independence of the state’s ombudsman. The ombudsman is intended to be an advocate for the state’s local nursing home residents.

A report was issued this week which explains how the state’s governor and elder affairs department inappropriately asked the former long-term care ombudsman to resign after severely limiting his duties. The former ombudsman, who know leads a senior care advocacy group, explained that the federal report is an unprecedented step that may lead to changes that affect all states. Specifically, the federal report explained that the federal nursing home law may have been violated when a department secretary was given final power to approve or dismiss the volunteers who play a crucial rule in monitor the state’s nursing homes. Previously the ombudsman had played this crucial role. In addition, the report explained that the state likely violated the same law by disallowing the ombudsman from lobbying lawmakers or speaking to the media.

Apparently the problems began when some interests in the state with ties to the nursing home lobby suggested a replacement to the current ombudsman. Before winning the governorship, the state’s chief executive who made the ombudsman resign had opposed plan by the ousted elder care advocate to collect information about nursing home ownership and directors throughout the state. The federal report issued following an investigation into this situation found that the ombudsman was removed for unjust reasons. It noted that while the state has the power to appoint and remove the individual in this position, it cannot use that authority in order to achieve what they cannot do otherwise under federal law. The federal report also explained that the situation has dealt blow to the agency’s ability to provide proper advocacy for local nursing home residents.

Our Illinois nursing home neglect lawyers understand well the need for impartial, fair investigations of local facilities. This important tool helps to keep these care centers in check, discouraging lackadaisical day-to-day care that may put residents at risk.

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