A recent probe conducted by the inspector general’s office of the federal Department of Health and Human Services revealed that one in every four cases of suspected physical or sexual abuseagainst nursing home residents went unreported to local law enforcement agents. Federal law requires that nursing home administrators, doctors, and nurses report suspected physical or sexual assault of its patients to the police within two hours for cases involving serious bodily injury, and 24 hours for cases without physical injury.
Investigators from the Health and Human Services Department are faulting Medicare officials for their lack of enforcement of the reporting requirement that carries fines of up to $300,000 for failure to comply with the regulation.
The investigation discovered that Medicare currently has no known procedures for tracking, and therefore enforces the reporting of potential abuse. The inspector general strongly suggests that Medicare develop a system that analyzes computer billings of Medicare services for nursing home patients and match them with emergency room visits and nursing home records to detect possible abuse.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recently issued a statement in response to the allegations from the Department of Health and Human Services declaring their commitment to nursing home safety. Though a spokesperson for the agency stated that they dedicate themselves to ensuring all cases of alleged abuse are investigated, they did not reveal how they enforce these mandates. The agency said they will have a formal response when the inspector general’s audit of the reporting system is complete.
The Department of Health and Human Services probe looked at a multitude of suspected nursing home abuse cases in 33 states during a two-year period. Investigators found 134 cases of suspected sexual or physical abuse or neglect, in which 38 cases had no evidence of being reported to law enforcement officials. Four out of five of these unreported cases involved alleged rape or sexual assault. The inspector general is urging Medicare to enforce the reporting requirement on nursing homes to help stop crimes against nursing home patients.
Family members and friends of nursing home residents are sometimes the first people to notice suspected abuse. Unexplained bruises or injuries, particularly to the arms, legs, abdomen, or genital areas of a patient should always be reported to the nursing home administrator and fully investigated. A change in personality, such as depression or anxiety, can indicate abuse and should also be reported. If your concerns are not immediately addressed and investigated, contact the local law enforcement agency or call 911 emergency services. Seeking the counsel of an experienced nursing home abuse lawyer can ensure that the safety and legal rights of your loved ones are protected and that investigations are properly conducted.
If you believe that someone you love has been a victim of nursing home abuse, call the New Jersey nursing home abuse lawyers at Davis & Brusca, LLC at 609-786-2540, or contact us online to schedule a consultation today. We are staunch advocates for the elderly and are committed to protecting their safety and legal rights. Our offices are conveniently located in Princeton and Trenton, New Jersey, and we serve clients throughout the state.