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Openness Needed to Help Consumers Prevent Nursing Home Abuse

The Illinois nursing home neglect lawyers at our firm spend much of our time learning about the specific circumstances surrounding the care provided to our clients that led to their harm. We work hard to conduct proper and thorough investigations and to use the available legal processes to collect information that is useful in court proceedings. In fact, it is often only through the legal process and the filing of a Illinois nursing home lawsuit that the families of these victims are able to learn specifically what happened to their loved one.

It is unfortunate that it takes this much for open and honest information to be shared about nursing home mistreatment. Unfortunately, many parts of the country experience the same struggles and influential nursing home interests work to keep information hidden and secretive. Even publically collected information is often kept hidden from those seeking to understand the quality of care provided at certain facilities.

For example, this week the Des Moines Register published a story about how the American Civil Liberties Union is getting involved in a dispute with a state agency seeking the disclosure of statistical information about nursing home inspections. Specifically, the ACLU is asking for clarification to determine the specific legal basis that the state’s office of inspections and appeals is using to deny access to inspection data. The state claims that the information-collected and maintained by state employees-cannot be released unless the federal government gives authorization. There is no clear legal justification for this unique claim.

The entire disagreement began after a journalistic investigation sought the department to provide information about the number of uninvestigated complaints about nursing home negligence, the total number of violations that have been issued by the state, and the total resources being spent on nursing home inspections. All of those clear requests for what should be public information were rebuffed.

The bizarre reason used to justify the denial of information was that the federal authorities owned the data-specifically the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Therefore, CMS approval was required before release of the information. However, CMS only pays for a portion of the costs associated with this data collection. The state pays for the rest, and so it is unclear why the information collected by agents paid by state taxpayers should be kept hidden from those taxpayers. As one advocate complained, “there seems to be something totally dysfunctional in the area of open government when a state agency can hide behind a federal agency in order to not disclose information about what they are doing.”

In our area, it is clear the open and honest information is an important factor in eliminating Illinois nursing home neglect. No facility that provides quality care should go extreme lengths to keep information away from the public or hide it from the family members of residents. All those who have loved ones in these homes should demand open and timely access to basic statistics about the quality of treatment at these homes.

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More Thorough Background Checks Proposed for Illinois Nursing Home Employees