Anonymous complaints of nursing home abuse or neglect would be banned under a proposed law being mulled by lawmakers in Illinois.
The bill, unsurprisingly supported by nursing home lobbyists, would prohibit anonymity, purportedly to slash the number of false complaints reportedly made to “Harass nursing homes.”
Rep. Mike Unes, sponsor of the bill, insists he is advocating for the most vulnerable because he wants to empower investigators to “help them get to the root of the problem.” By requiring people to leave their name and contact information if they wish to have a complaint investigated, Unes believes more legitimate complaints will be make it through the investigative phase.
However, that notion, even if sincere, is short-sighted for the fact that it ignores what legitimate complaints may never come to the surface at all because the reporting party was reticent to be identified.
A perfect example: A nursing home employee who knows the procedures at the hospital don’t meet state guidelines and put patient safety at risk, but who doesn’t want to jeopardize her job to report it.
Another example: A woman who believes her mother is being abused at a nursing home but who fears a lack of evidence and the possibility that being identified as the complainant could subject her mother to greater harm is not enough evidence is found.
Unes did not provide information indicating how many nursing homes have suffered unfair damages as a result of “harassment” due to false complaints.
It’s also not clear whether the law would conflict with federal law. According to Medicare.gov, those who wish to file a nursing home abuse complaint can do so anonymously. The state survey agency representative is not going to use the caller’s name to investigate the complaint. However, if the complainant wants to know the outcome of the investigation, he or she may consider leaving their name and contact information.
That same rule applies in Florida, per the Agency for Health Care Administration.
Advocates for nursing home patients and their families are pushing hard to oppose the bill. They argue that some complainants fear retaliation against either themselves or loved ones by the nursing homes. A law that would force them to provide their name and contact information – even to the state’s nursing home hotline – would effectively result in many people with legitimate complaints leaving those concerns unheard.
According to a group known as Illinois Citizens for a Better Care, this measure is a thinly-veiled attempt to block people from filing complaints. Supporters of the bill either aren’t considering – or do not care about – the vulnerability, health and varying personalities of those who would be reporting these situations. That would include employees of the nursing homes, as well as residents and residents’ family members.
The representative called the fear these individuals faced, “enormous.”
On top of that, the bill would require that those filing a complaint be informed about all the potential criminal sanctions that might be imposed by prosecutors for filing a false report. These sanctions already exist under the current law (resulting in a possible misdemeanor charge), but it’s going to have the effect of deterring those who are already nervous about filing a complaint to begin with.
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Bill Would Ban Anonymous Complaints Against Nursing Homes, April 14, 2016, By Dean Olsen, SJ-r.com
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