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December 11, 2017

Low Conviction Rates for Nursing Home Abuse in Pennsylvania Sparks Change in Legislation

According to a recent investigative series by the Reading Eagle, Pennsylvania has the fewest number of convictions in the nation when it comes to abuse and neglect for patient-related care. Investigators found that the state is much more likely to pursue cases of Medicaid fraud, rather than poor patient care and claim that the Pennsylvania Department of Health halts investigations because of certain statutes. From 2008 to 2016, the total amount of abuse claims has fluctuated, but the number of confirmed cases has risen from 159 in 2008 to 586 in 2016. Despite the uptick in confirmed abuse cases throughout the course of nearly a decade, less than 15 percent of reported abuse cases during that time period were substantiated by the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

Pennsylvania has laws that criminalize abuse and neglect of any individual that is dependent on another person for care, but the state’s statute – unique to Pennsylvania – does not allow for the attorney general to investigate the abuse, limiting the types of cases that can be pursued.  In 2010, 2,437 cases were investigated, but only 131 of those cases were for abuse and neglect. Out of those 131 cases, only eight resulted in convictions. All of the other cases were likely for fraud within the healthcare facilities, rather than abuse or neglect. In some cases, nursing homes failed to report abuse to police altogether.

 

House Bill 1124
A newly proposed house bill hopes to change all of this and allow the attorney general’s office to investigate claims of nursing home abuse, rather than leaving it in the hands of local law enforcement. House Bill 1124 would amend the statute that prevents the attorney general l from investigating claims of abuse, and potentially enforce penalties on nursing homes that don’t immediately notify local law enforcement when abuse occurs. Currently, facilities are only required to submit a correction plan that includes notifying the police, but doesn’t face any consequences for not reporting suspected abuse. This is not the first time this type of bill has been introduced. In 2007 after owners of the Lebanon County assisted-living homes were arrested and prosecuted for forcing their residents to eat rotten garbage and work stuffing newspapers, a bill was introduced to better define the terms of abuse and the position of care-taker.  The bill passed in the House, but failed to gain support in the Senate.

 

Elder Abuse Lawyers At Goldberg, Persky & White, P.C.
All nursing homes and long-term care facilities that receive federal funds must comply with certain federal regulations and laws. These regulations and laws set out in detail the type and quality of care that residents in these facilities must receive. Many of these facilities provide excellent care; however, far too many do not and poorly trained employees or understaffed homes can endanger the lives of the patients. In many cases, it is up to the family members to identify nursing home abuse and neglect, and that can result in its own set of challenges. If you or a loved one is not receiving the care required by law, contact the attorneys at GPW for a free consultation.  For over 30 years, GPW has been a leader in personal injury lawsuits, and as one of the largest personal injury firms in Pennsylvania, GPW has the knowledge, resources, and manpower to fight for the compensation you or a loved one deserves.

 

Sources:

Nicole C. Brambilia, “Nursing Home Patient-Neglect Cases Rarely Prosecuted in Pennsylvania,”  The Reading Eagle (December 10, 2017). [Link]

Nicole C. Bramilia, “Berks-area Lawmakers Look to Strengthen Nursing Home Abuse Laws,” The Reading Eagle (December 11, 2017). [Link]

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