Oklahoma City, OK- The population of nursing homes in expected to increase 40 percent over the next decade. This is time when legislators should be passing additional protections for residents of long-term care facilities. Instead, lawmakers in Oklahoma, as state that has recently been criticized for their substandard care of nursing home residents, have introduced tort reforms that would make it more difficult for families to facilities if their loved one is abused or neglected.
In a recent survey of nursing homes nationwide, Oklahoma received and “F” grade, ranking 48th out 50 states for providing adequate care to residents, according to the elder advocacy group Americans for Better Care. Nursing home residents in the state of Oklahoma only receive an average of 29 minutes of care each day, making them susceptible to neglect and abuse.
This is something that lawmakers in the state should be alarmed about, but, instead of passing laws that would offer nursing home residents more protection, they are introducing legislation that many say favor the nursing home operators.
A provision in the law would make it difficult for someone to file an abuse or neglect lawsuit, requiring that a third party must decide that lawsuit is warranted before a case can go to court. The law would also reduce the settlement amounts that could be awarded.
“Victimized residents would have to present their case before a supposedly objective board,” Brian Lee, executive director of Americans for Better Care said. “The industry is trying to trip over itself to put up barriers. But they have yet to address the underlying issue: bad care in nursing homes.”
Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin called a special legislative session to consider the bill, which failed to pass in 2009 and was tossed out by the state Supreme Court, the Norman Transcript reported.
Wallace Collins, a former Oklahoma state legislator, said the “tort reforms being proposed are actually court deforms,” according to the Norman Transcript.
Lee, executive director of the non-profit Americans for Better Care believes nursing home residents and their families need better protection.
“Oklahoma represents what’s terribly wrong with nursing home care and oversight in America,” Lee said.
State Rep. James Lockhart told the Norman Transcript there is no requirement for nursing homes to call authorities when someone is assaulted, raped or otherwise harmed.
States which got failing grades in the report should be taking steps that protect nursing home residents and not nursing homes, especially in light of the recent surveys in which one out of ten seniors said they were abused or neglected in a long term care facility.
Neglect is a major problem in nursing homes across the country and for those who are abused; a lawsuit is one of the only ways in which the victim for families can get justice. Anyone who suspects their loved ones are being neglected or harmed can contact a nursing home abuse attorney for help.