Nursing Home Employees Were Unaware of Madatory Reporting Policies on Abuse

Not every member of National Healthcare Bristol’s (NHC) nursing home staff knew they were required by law to report patient abuse, according to an October state inspection report. The Virginia Department of Health conducted an annual, unannounced inspection Oct. 6-8 and the results were recently made public.

Inspectors wrote that many NHC Bristol staff members were unaware of their legal obligation to report patient abuse to local law enforcement or to state regulatory agencies. Also, the DHS report on NHC Bristol’s Nursing Home alleges that the home’s administrator once failed to notify a patient’s representatives of a sexual abuse claim that had become part of an ongoing police investigation.

“I figured they were already aware of it since it was being investigated,” the administrator told inspectors. News that nursing home workers were cited as being unaware they had to report abuse shocked one Virginia Long-Term Care Ombudsman, a private agent contracted by the state as a nursing home patient advocate.

Most of the 140-page inspection report focuses on health care, and claims involving failure to administer medications, failure to examine all patients on a regularly scheduled basis, and failure to properly notify representatives when a patient faces a new health problem. Inspectors returned to NHC Bristol earlier this week to make sure corrections have been made. The results are not yet available, and it is not known whether fines will be levied.

Inspectors wrote that they interviewed only members of a single night and day shift about the state’s mandated reporting law. The law requires police, doctors, nurses and other medical staff to report to supervisors and regulatory agencies any suspected case of elder abuse. Mandatory reporters who fail to make a report can be fined as much as $500 for the first failure and $1,000 for following failures.

Inspectors arrived at NHC about a month after accusations surfaced that a former nursing aide there sexually assaulted male and female patients for years. Once the police charges surfaced, former NHC workers told the Herald Courier that supervisors either ignored or threw away written reports of the abuse. The former workers also said they were afraid they would lose their jobs if they skipped the home’s chain of command and called state regulatory agencies.For more, read the story.

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Robert W. Carter, Jr. is a Virginia attorney whose law practice is dedicated to protecting the rights of the victims of nursing home and assisted living neglect and abuse in Richmond, Roanoke, Norfolk, Lynchburg, Danville, Charlottesville, and across Virginia.