State Disciplinary Board Criticized For Little Overslight Of Nursing Home Administrators

The state board that disciplines one state's nursing home administrators hasn't issued any sanctions in two years and isn't reviewing the state's own care facility inspection reports, according to a large state newspaper.

The Board of Nursing Home Administrators, which is dominated by health care professionals, has operated for more than a year with only one citizen representative rather than the two required by law. Of the two most recent citizen representatives, one is a former hospital lobbyist with a poor record of attendance at board meetings, and the other resigned in protest last year after complaining that she had been marginalized by the board.

The board chairman is a former nursing home administrator who recently resigned from a care facility for what he says is a confidential personnel reason. He says he is not sure why some disciplinary cases take two years or more for the board to resolve, and he acknowledges that some cases of alleged wrongdoing aren't being reviewed by the board.

A former state lawmaker and an advocate for seniors, says the board needs to be restructured. "Right now, it's the fox guarding the henhouse," he said. "There aren't enough average citizens on the board. There should be at least four lay people, maybe five, plus two health professionals and one nursing home administrator or owner."

The board is designed to help protect the 24,000 residents of that state's nursing homes, many of whom have no family members or friends to oversee their care. The board licenses and reviews the conduct of facility administrators who are ultimately responsible for meeting the needs of the residents.

But a newspaper review of state records shows that since 2001, the Board of Nursing Home Administrators has disciplined only nine of the 750 licensed administrators. In some cases, the discipline had no real effect, because the administrators were already retired from the profession or in prison.

The records also show that the board doesn't act even when the state's own regulators have alleged criminal wrongdoing.

Three years ago, state inspectors faulted an administrator for not informing the state about complaints that residents at one nursing home were being physically abused by a caregiver. For more, read the story.

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Robert W. Carter, Jr. is a Virginia attorney whose law practice is dedicated to protecting the rights of the victims of nursing home and assisted living neglect and abuse in Richmond, Roanoke, Norfolk, Lynchburg, Danville, Charlottesville, and across Virginia.


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