Long-Term Care Facility Inspections Begin After 14-Month Backlog

Tuesday, May 4th 2021, 6:37 pm
By: Hunter McKee

After more than a year, in-person nursing home inspections have resumed, and officials have seen a new trend.

According to the state's long-term care Ombudsman's office, they've seen an almost 60% increase in abuse complaints during the first 14-months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

New data shows that from March of 2020 to April of 2021, they saw a total of 254 physical and psychological abuse cases reported compared to just 67 in the year before COVID.

However, William Whited, the state's long-term care Ombudsman said part of the increase came after an agreement with Adult Protective Services just prior to COVID hitting the state.

"APS will send us any allegations they've received of residential resident abuse or verbal abuse in Oklahoma's long-term care facilities," Whited said.

As complaints continued to come in, cases were forced to stay open due to a lack of face-to-face contact with the patients. However, officials said they're catching up quickly.

"We're on track to be caught up with our investigations probably in the next couple months," Whited said.

As COVID continued halting outside resources, one state lawmaker was working to find a solution.

"Short of a complete black out, our nursing homes and assisted living facilities have to allow in both visitors for our residents, but also outside health care agencies," State Representative Chad Caldwell said. 

House Bill 2566 was signed by Gov. Kevin Stitt just last week. Caldwell hopes these patients get the help they need.

"No question, one of the insular benefits of this legislation is it did provide an extra set of eyes and ears on those residents to hopefully eliminate those cases of abuse," Caldwell said.

Whited also said while complaints have increased, on average 50% of the allegations they receive are withdrawn by the resident.