Just recently, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed a few bills that affect those in nursing homes and long-term care facilities. One of these bills is intended to better facilitate the complaint process for those seeking to file complaints against nursing homes in Illinois. The Illinois Department of Public Health specifically enforces laws, rules and regulations as they concern nursing homes and long-term care facilities.
The department arranges routine inspections of nursing homes, and gathers data on items like the quality of care of patients, the number of staff, the training of staff, and much more. In addition, the department accepts complaints from residents and their families regarding specific incidents of abuse or neglect, or just general patterns of a failure to properly care for residents. The department will hand down punishments in terms of fines and penalties, probation, and sometimes even suspension or complete closure, depending on the nature of a facility’s offense or offenses, and how long they have gone on without remedy. The department also publishes information on these inspections and enforcement actions in quarterly reports for all to see.
This newest law is intended to make the process of filing complaints against nursing homes easier. Previously there was a 24-hour hotline as well as a form that could be filled out and submitted by mail or fax. While these options are very much alive and well, the department has entered the 21st century. The law, originally proposed as House Bill 5703, has upgraded the department’s ability to more efficiently deal with reported wrongdoing by allowing complaints to be submitted electronically through the web. It furthermore helps by guiding complainants by providing question prompts and recommendations to provide complete and detailed-enough answers and information so that the department can adequately review and understand the complaint being made. The department will also review its procedures for accepting complaints and release reports annually on its findings so that other groups, like advisory boards, can contribute input as to how to better run the complaints process.
In addition to improving the complaints process, another bill, Senate Bill 798 which was also passed and signed into law, provides for greater responsibilities of the Long Term Care Ombudsman. The new law allows ombudsmen to have more contact with patients living in community care environments. Community-based care has increasingly become a popular form of care. By allowing ombudsmen greater access here, and not just in actual facilities, should help ensure all those receiving nursing home-type care are well taken care of. Ombudsmen are now also more empowered with new direct access to state’s attorney’s offices or the state Attorney General regarding “business-related offense[s].” Lastly, Senate Bill 2958 was also signed into law by Governor Quinn. This new law creates a pilot program to help train certified nursing assistants in administering medications. The training would happen under close supervision of registered nurses, and the program would last 3 years.
As the need for greater care, transparency and oversight has become more paramount in care facilities, Illinois has tried to keep up. It will be interesting to observe how these new laws impact the care of elderly and disabled in nursing homes, long-term care facilities, and in community-based care settings.
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