According to a recent government audit, more than one in four cases of possible physical and sexual abuse against nursing home patients went unreported. Investigators say Medicare is responsible for not enforcing the federal law requiring immediate notification of potential abuse or neglect to police and other agencies. The agency is now urged to take corrective action to ensure that these incidents are identified and reported so that they may be investigated and resolved.
As part of a longer ongoing probe, the Health and Human Services inspector general’s office conducted the nursing home study over the course of two years. Investigators identified 134 cases of potential physical or sexual abuse or neglect of nursing home residents. Of those cases, 38 were apparently not reported to local law enforcement despite federal, state, and local reporting requirements. Hospital records revealed no evidence that the 38 incidents, which accounted for 28 percent of the total cases studied, were reported.
Federal law requires nursing homes to report incidents that may have been caused by abuse or neglect within 24 hours. Incidents involving serious bodily injury must be reported within two hours. According to the study’s investigators, Medicare has not done enough to enforce these laws. The inspector general’s report stated that Medicare has inadequate procedures in place to ensure that incidents are properly identified and reported.
The inspector general encourages Medicare to be aware of signs of nursing home abuse by looking at computerized billing records. The study’s authors express concern that even in cases which were ultimately reported, they were unable to determine whether the immediate notification requirement was met. One case, involving possible sexual abuse, exemplifies a circumstance in which an incident was not reported in the proper manner. In that case, nursing home staff helped the resident bathe and change clothes after the incident, thereby destroying potential evidence. They did not report the incident to law enforcement within two hours, but rather waited until the next day to tell the resident’s family about the incident, who then notified the police.
In another instance, the inspector general’s report stated that the nursing home contacted local law enforcement, but only in an attempt to avoid investigation into the incident. The state’s report also contained a statement by the nursing home that they were required to report the incident, but that they did not want the police to be involved because they were conducting an internal investigation and no one wanted to press charges.
All 134 cases were reported to the local police and the inspector general’s office expects to release additional findings. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services has expressed its commitment to nursing home resident safety and its intention to investigate and resolve all viable instances of abuse or neglect. It plans to issue a formal response once the government audit is complete.
If your loved one was a victim of nursing home abuse or neglect, contact our nursing home abuse lawyers in New Jersey at Davis & Brusca, LLC. Contact us online or call us at 609-786-2540 for a free, confidential consultation. Our offices are conveniently located in Princeton and we represent clients throughout the state of New Jersey, including Middlesex County, Essex County, Hudson County, Union County, Morris County, and Hunterdon County.