Best New Law - 2003
Tougher penalties for nursing homes
In the past few years, newspapers across the state have carried reports of nursing-home abuses: residents found covered in ants or maggots; bed-ridden residents with severe bedsores and gangrene; fractured hips left untreated; and heat-related deaths in nursing homes after the temperature inside soared to almost 100 degrees. It took a few years of trying, but this year the General Assembly finally got it together and passed a bill aimed at protecting the elderly and regulating long-term care providers. The bill, signed into law by Governor Bob Holden on June 16, expands the grounds for license revocation by including refusal to allow state workers access to nursing-home employees or residents; felony convictions stemming from the operation of a nursing home; and knowingly acting in a way that causes material harm. The civil penalties jumped from $10,000 to $25,000. The law also mandates reporting of abuse or neglect; anyone who abuses an elderly resident is subject to criminal prosecution, and an administrator who tries to cover up abuse or neglect can be prosecuted for a Class D felony. Finally, to prevent cover-ups, when a resident dies a nursing home's staff is required to notify the deceased's family, the attending physician and the local coroner.