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Court Victory & New Law
Restore California Nursing Home Reforms


>A State Court judge and the Legislature handed major victories to nursing home residents in August by requiring timely complaint investigations and restoring oversight of California nursing home reforms. These actions are a forceful rebuke to the California Department of Health Services (DHS), which has been ignoring complaints about abuse and neglect and disregarding California laws that were designed to protect residents.

Complaint Lawsuit: CANHR v. DHS

The court victory came in a lawsuit, CANHR v DHS, filed by CANHR and the daughters of two elder neglect victims against DHS due to its routine failure to begin onsite investigations of nursing home complaints within 10 working days, as required by California law. According to DHS, it is investigating less than one in four complaints in a timely manner and has a backlog of nearly 1,000 complaints. Due to its failures, many California nursing home residents are exposed to abuse and neglect long after it is reported to DHS.

Following a July hearing, Judge Peter Busch of the California Superior Court issued a written ruling on August 11 ordering DHS to comply with the law. Judge Busch scheduled a follow-up hearing in September to determine how quickly DHS must come into full compliance.

Watch CANHR's website for more information about the outcome of this important lawsuit. CANHR is represented by Christopher Healey and Aaron Winn of Luce, Forward, Hamilton & Scripps of San Diego and by Michael Thamer of Callahan. CANHR thanks them for their outstanding advocacy in this matter.

Legislative Reforms

In a related matter, the Legislature gave DHS more than $18 million in additional licensing funds as part of the 2006-07 California budget. It directed DHS to hire 141 new employees in its Licensing and Certification (L&C) branch, including 96 new nurse inspectors. Additionally, the Legislature approved $2.7 million for Los Angeles County to hire 18 new nurse inspectors in that county. The new L&C budget -- which increases professional inspection staff by almost one-third -- was prompted by CANHR's lawsuit and by legislative hearings CANHR sought to help expose DHS oversight failures.

The legislative hearings led to another important victory: passage of a new law requiring DHS to determine compliance with California nursing home reform laws during inspections and investigations. California laws contain some of the most important protections for nursing home residents, such as minimum staffing requirements. Currently, DHS ignores California laws during inspections, rendering more than two decades of California nursing home reforms meaningless.

SB 1312 (Alquist) will require DHS to evaluate compliance with California nursing home laws and enforce them. If signed by the Governor, it will take effect on July 1, 2007. Congratulations to Senator Elaine Alquist and her staff for restoring California nursing home reforms and many thanks to the advocacy organizations and CANHR members who helped fight for SB 1312 to be enacted.

Please write the Governor and urge him to sign SB 1312 so that dozens of important California nursing home reform laws will be enforced. Contact the Governor at: The Honorable Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, State Capitol Building, Sacramento, CA 95814; FAX: (916) 445-4633; E-mail: www.govmail.ca.gov.