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Resignation of Department of Public Health Director Provides Opportunity for New Leadership at Troubled Agency


The December 3, 2014 announcement by Dr. Ron Chapman that he is resigning his position as Director of the California Department of Public Health is welcome news to California nursing home residents. Dr. Chapman has shown little interest in the plight of nursing home residents who have increasingly been exposed to neglect and abuse under his watch. New leadership at the Department of Public Health is urgently needed and long overdue.

The Department’s effectiveness is at an all time low. To name a few of its problems, complaints involving abuse and neglect are often ignored; there is a huge backlog of complaints; the quality of nursing home inspections is very poor; required licensing inspections are not being carried out; enforcement of residents’ rights is abysmal; thousands of nursing home residents are subjected to chemical restraints; the Department allows unfit persons and companies to acquire and mismanage nursing homes; its Los Angeles County operations are in a state of crisis; other district offices are poorly led; it too often caters to the interests of the nursing home industry; morale of its employees is very low; and its employees are fleeing the Department faster than it can replace them.

The Department’s leaders are also fleeing. Including Dr. Chapman, three of its top four licensing officials have left the Department in the last year. Its top remaining official is Kathleen Billingsley, who is most directly responsible for the dysfunction within the licensing and certification division. Ms. Billingsley should follow Dr. Chapman’s lead and step down from her position. If she fails to do so, the Governor should promptly replace her.

CANHR calls on Governor Jerry Brown to swiftly appoint a new leadership team at the Department of Public Health. The new leaders should have the qualifications, experience and will to build the licensing and certification division into a premier consumer protection agency that will protect the interests of nursing home residents and patients of other health facilities throughout California.