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Illinois State Representative Proposes Nursing Home Reform

The Examiner reported recently on efforts by one local legislator to enact reforms which will hopefully tackle the Illinois nursing home neglect and abuse problems that continue to plague residents throughout our state. Chicago State Representative Kelly Cassidy is partnering with various Illinois nursing home reforms advocates to raise awareness of the problem and push for legislative solutions that can better protect this elderly population.

At a recent press conference, the parties explained the scope of the problem, describing situations that our Illinois nursing home neglect lawyers know well. For example, a registered nursing assistant at a Chicago-area home shared just one situation that she experienced. She explained, “One of my wheel-bound patients caught fire. He had been smoking. We frantically tried to put out the flames, but the nursing home had no fire blankets. He burned to death.” The nursing assistant continued by noting that the administrators and owners of these homes must be held more accountable for these accidents. More can be done to create safer conditions so that these tragedies are prevented. But unfortunately, many of these individuals will not provide more resources for better care unless they are forced to do so.

To actually do the forcing, Representative Cassidy introduced a legislative proposal known as House Bill 5668. The goal of the bill is to cut down on Illinois nursing home neglect, particularly harm to residents caused by basic disregard for simple safety measures. To emphasize the need for the legislation, Cassidy explained that 35% of Chicago nursing homes fall below current acceptable staffing level. Next year the problem is expected to get worse, with almost 50% of homes understaffed.

This is no trivial matter-it is illegal. Rep. Cassidy summed up, “Unless nursing homes suddenly exhibit a commitment to comply with the law that many of them have ducked so far, almost half of Chicago’s nursing home residents, and a quarter of residents statewide, will live in illegally understaffed facilities next year.”

Our Chicago nursing home neglect lawyers know that this understaffing is not just a problem on paper. It translates into deaths, injuries, and overall quality of life deterioration for thousands of our areas most vulnerable. The understaffing was meant to be address in landmark nursing home reform that was passed in the state a year and a half ago. However, the rules required by that legislation are essentially being ignored. Enforcement and accountability efforts are lacking, and that is what this latest proposed legislation seeks to provide.

Co-sponsored by Illinois State Representative Greg Harris, the bill would enact a range of changes. It would amp up mandatory reporting requirements for abuse and neglect. It would expand the scope of the Long-Term Care Ombudsman to represent all residents, not just the elderly. In addition, the legislation calls for increased staffing of the ombudsman program so that staff members can have a more manageable case-load and provide better protection for residents. Liability insurance will be required to be held by these facilities, and it provide more accountability for facilities that seek to avoid responsibility by simply changing ownership.

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