A recent investigation by the Center for Investigative Reporting revealed that the California Department of Public Health dismissed about 1,000 pending cases in 2009 which alleged caretaker abuse and theft, without taking any action. This hurried dismissal of cases occurred to alleviate the Department’s extreme backlog of cases. These closed cases involved caregivers accused of assaulting or abusing their patients, some of which involved elderly patients. The closing of these pending cases has allowed for these caregivers to retain their licenses, thereby allowing them to continue to work in nursing homes, hospitals, and other health care facilities throughout Southern California. These abuse cases have been reported from facilities in Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego and Santa Barbara, ranging from abuse and neglect to suspicious deaths. Therefore, we must remain vigilant in ensuring that instances of abuse against the elderly in such facilities go reported and ensure such caregivers are removed from their positions to prevent further harm.
The investigation found that the Department of Public Health rarely took action against these caregivers, despite clear evidence of allegations of abuse, and that the number of caregivers removed from their jobs for their wrongful actions has declined. Specifically, investigators found that about 81% of cases were closed in 2012 without taking any action against an accused caregiver. What is even more worrisome is that there was also an extreme drop in the number of cases involving suspicious deaths from abuse that were sent to law enforcement to be investigated and prosecuted. It should be noted that this decline in action is not due to a decrease in complaints, but rather, is correlated with the hurried removal of the Department’s backlog of pending cases. As a result, even though accused caregivers and their employers may have engaged in wrongful conduct, they are still licensed to work and care for vulnerable patients and are not being held accountable.
Generally, when a complaint alleging abuse is reported, inspectors must begin the case immediately by visiting the facility and interviewing those present at the scene in order to collect information. When the investigation unveils abuse, the Department must take action by revoking the accused caregiver’s certification, and must report the instance of abuse to law enforcement. However, it was revealed that many of the complaints made were closed quickly and that most investigations were conducted by phone. Additionally, it was found that most severe issues regarding health care facilities were uncovered when a physical walk through of the facility was conducted. Therefore, investigations conducted via phone typically lead to the oversight of important information indicating instances of abuse which endanger patients.
Elderly patients are part of a vulnerable population and require a great amount of care. These patients and their families have entrusted the caregivers in these facilities to provide them with high quality care, which they deserve. Thus, the detestable actions of these caregivers are inexcusable and cannot go unnoticed or unpunished. It is important that family members keep a close watch on their loved ones in nursing homes so as to identify signs of possible elder abuse before it is too late. Our attorneys at the Law Offices of Ben Yeroushalmi are here to help end the cycle of silence surrounding elder physical abuse. We firmly believe that our most vulnerable cannot continue to be victimized by those who are responsible for their well-being. If your loved one shows any signs of elder abuse, contact our offices for a free consultation. We are located in both Northern and Southern California and serve every city state-wide. Contact us at (888) 606-3453 to stop elder abuse today.