As a Pennsylvania nursing home negligence attorney, I was interested in a recent article about nursing home abuse as an issue in political campaigns. A candidate for governor in Iowa has criticized the state’s nursing home inspectors for doing their job of making sure that nursing homes abide by state and federal regulations that protect patients. This article makes very clear that enforcement of laws that keep vulnerable nursing home patients safe can be left up to political whim. That means that it’s very important for nursing home patients and their families to know their rights, so that if government watchdogs fail them, they can protect themselves and hold negligent nursing homes accountable.
Terry Branstad, the Republican candidate for governor in Iowa, says that he thinks state regulators should collaborate and cooperate with nursing homes, instead of having what he calls their “gotcha attitude” of looking for violations. He said that he would replace the head of the state’s Department of Inspections and Appeals with someone willing to follow his ideas — even though, as the current head of that agency points out, his ideas amount to a refusal to enforce state nursing home laws. During Branstad’s previous tenure as Iowa governor, from 1983 to 1999, the state failed to inspect nursing homes as state law required, and to adequately penalize nursing homes that neglected patients as federal law required. That was true even in cases where patients had died. In one case, the state fined a home just $500 for incidents including the deaths of two patients, and the neglect or sexual abuse of others.
After Branstad left office, the state substantially increased the fines on negligent nursing homes. Nursing home industry officials have fought back by raising funds for political candidates who promise to represent their financial interests over the needs of their vulnerable patients. One state legislator, Pat Ward, took money from a nursing home that had been decertified by the federal government for widespread neglect, and she then pressured the state inspector to restore the nursing home’s certification right away. She said, “We don’t want [inspectors] just coming down on them and slamming them with fines. We want them to communicate with the industry and tell the ManorCares of the world what they are doing wrong and what they need to do to improve things.”
As a Philadelphia injury lawyer, I’d like to point out that it’s part of a nursing home company’s job to know the laws and regulations that apply to them. Nursing homes violate laws and regulations not because they are honestly ignorant of them — although that would constitute negligence in itself — but because doing so is good for their bottom line. Hiring adequate staff and training them to provide good patient care costs money that could otherwise be going into nursing home company owners’ pockets. Here in Pennsylvania, people may not be thinking about the impact of politics on nursing home quality, since we haven’t had prominent candidates openly state that they oppose nursing home regulation. But as a Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyer, I hope that all nursing home patients and their families will learn about their rights to good care regardless of which political party is in power.
If you suspect that negligence, neglect, or abuse has hurt your loved one in a nursing home, you should consult a Philadelphia injury lawyer at Rosenbaum & Associates for a free consultation. You can reach us toll-free at 1-800-7-LEGAL-7 or contact us online today.