Nursing Home Fines Reduced- If the Government Is Protecting the Millionaires, Who Protects the Patients?
In June 2017 the Trump administration rolled back an Obama era law that lifted a rule which forced nursing home patients and their caregivers to forego their right to file a motion in court and bound them to arbitration for legal claims. The significance of this 2017 law means that even in a situation where a patient in the care of a nursing home has claims of neglect after injures or illness, the representing party of the patient can no longer file a motion for their day in court, without going though arbitration. Arbitrations are confidential proceedings that are not public record and often require any agreement to remain confidential and secret.
In 2016 Frank McMahon admitted his sister to a Care One facility. When he was filling out the admitting forms he signed a form, that he later learned was an agreement that in the event that legal recourse was sought on behalf of the patient, it could only be through arbitration. His sister's care while she was in Care One was less than ideal. She contacted infections and developed bedsores. As a result he decided to sue Care One. A New Jersey court ruled in his favor to allow a trial date to be scheduled regardless of the forced arbitration agreement.
Unfortunately the new law of the land which was implemented in June 2017, will force patients and families into arbitration which will decrease transparency and allow these facilities to continue to operate understaffed and providing unsafe and inhumane living environments for millions of our nations most vulnerable patients.
If forced arbitration wasn't enough, the Trump administration gave further relief to nursing home owners by drastically reducing fines. Instead of being held responsible and fined for the number of days the facility was in violation, there would be a one day $20,965 cap. This means that in the event that a facility did not provide adequate care based on evidence for 30 days they can only be fined for one day.
In 2014 Care One was sued by another patient's family for the neglect of their elderly mother who suffered from Alzheimer's. Her family had originally filed a motion for the plaintiff, their mother, calling her Jane Doe. Care One's attorneys filed motions to have the original motion dismissed because it was not done under the patient's given name. The family felt that lack of staff was a contributing issue for the neglect that their mother was subjected to, but since there are virtually no staffing laws the lawsuit had little traction. As a result a legislative bill to standardize the number of aids in these facilities was introduced by Assemblyman Joseph Lagana in 2015 and was then sponsored by the New Jersey Senate in 2016. This bill A4636 or Senate Bill S2878, was approved in the Assembly and Senate by the Democrat majority, but every Republican voted against the bill. Regardless of successfully passing the bill in the Senate, Governor Christie vetoed it.
The common link in these unfortunate experiences is lack of staff. Unfortunately our elderly and at risk populations will continue to be neglected unless the state's lawmakers finally make safe staffing a law. Reach out to your legislative representatives and tell them you want safe staffing in New Jersey facilities. To locate your Senate and Assembly representatives click here. Call, email, write or tweet them often.
(links to original articles or news footage)
NY Times: Trump Administrative Eases Nursing Home Fines in Victory for Industry
Brother of Care One Nursing Home Patients Sues for Neglect
New Jersey Nursing Home Patient Dies From Bedsores
Care One Sued For Neglect Nursing NJ Nursing Home Bill Introduced