Nursing homes are responsible for some of the most vulnerable members of the population. Elderly patients who reside in Alabama nursing homes seek varying levels of care, from minor physical assistance to round-the-clock, custodial care. The services that nursing homes provide to elderly patients determine their quality of life and ability to function.
If you have a loved one in an Alabama nursing home, you may be concerned about the quality of services your loved one receives and if there are any actions, you can take to hold the facility accountable. Find out how nursing homes are held accountable for the quality of their services in Alabama and what you can do if you find that your loved one is in danger due to neglect or abuse.
Who Oversees Nursing Homes in Alabama?
The Department of Public Health’s Bureau of Health Provider Standards is the organization that oversees nursing homes in Alabama. They license and certify all healthcare facilities in the state.
The Division of Health Care Facilities works in conjunction with the Alabama State Board of Health and the Alabama Department of Public Health to conduct routine surveys and follow-up visits to ensure that nursing homes comply with state and federal standards. They also provide access to reports through the Health Care Facilities Public Deficiencies site, which allows you to search nursing homes and read the details of reported deficiencies.
The National Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) also plays a part in the oversight of Alabama nursing homes. This government body approves state certification in some facilities and determines whether or not that facility can receive Medicare or Medicaid funds.
How Are Nursing Homes Held Accountable?
To hold nursing homes accountable for their services, these oversight entities take several actions. Federal and state organizations:
Perform surprise surveys and audits to spot deficiencies
Perform follow-up visits to ensure deficiencies are corrected
Make detailed reports of the deficiencies available to the public
Provide online tools to compare nursing home services
Provide a rating system to identify facilities’ quality of services
Offer tips on how to choose a facility with good services
The consequences of performing poorly on these quality markers include public scrutiny, fees, fines, government funding loss, revocation of certification, and forced closure.
Why Oversights Fail
Unfortunately, these oversights often fail to stop abuse and neglect in nursing homes. Surveys are not performed with enough frequency to stop most cases of abuse. In many instances, nursing homes are alerted to the presence of public health officials, and either put a band-aid on an ongoing problem or hide it altogether.
The consequences of performing poorly on an inspection are often not severe enough to stop daily abuse and neglect. Receiving a fine and being given time to correct a mistake that leaves residents in mental terror or physical pain does not hold a facility accountable.
Additionally, the process for reporting concerns about nursing home services feels impartial and passive to people who are concerned about the imminent health of a loved one in a nursing home. You must call to report an incident and trust that someone from the agency will investigate and take action to prevent abuse. Although it is always important to report concerns to governmental agencies, it does not mean that the nursing home will be held to account.
Legal Options for Nursing Home Abuse Victims
In many cases, the only way to hold a nursing home accountable for its services is to take legal action against its doctors, staff, and owners. When a patient is subjected to emotional, physical, or sexual abuse or suffers from malicious or unintentional neglect, it may be time to contact an Alabama nursing home abuse lawyer to seek justice and bring attention to the nursing home’s abhorrent conditions.
In some cases, a nursing home abuse attorney will suggest a civil lawsuit to recover damages from the injuries done to a nursing home patient. There is also the possibility of holding the staff member or members who have harmed a nursing home resident accountable with criminal charges.