Punishment for Reporting
Written by Jeff Meyer on August 6, 2015
Punishment for Reporting
Did you know that, by law, nursing homes are obliged to report any and all instances of neglect or abuse? Did you know, also, that failure to do so can result in a long list of possible penalties? Unfortunately, reporting is something that is in the hands of the administration of a facility, and it is entirely too subjective.
For example, an administrator may not want to file a report on a specific matter because it will open the door to state and federal investigations. This could put their Medicare and Medicaid funding at risk, and so the administrator makes the choice of money over people. It sounds horrible, but it is a common enough occurrence.
In fact, recent sweeping changes proposed to the “star system” used by Medicare on their Nursing Home Compare tool are based, partly on the frequency of low reporting by nursing homes.
So, it is not all that surprising to read that a “former nursing home employee claims she was wrongfully terminated after reporting incidents of abuse and neglect that possibly led to the death of at least two of its residents in 2014.” (MadisonRedord.com)
The Sad Story
In this particular story, a nursing home employee kept filing the appropriate reports when she felt that patients were not being treated properly. She reported neglect and abuse, and in return she was reportedly treated with hostility, retaliation, and harassment in the workplace. She did not tolerate this long and reported directly to corporate headquarters. When her employer failed to take action about the issue, she made an anonymous report to her state’s Department of Public Health.
What happened next seems foolish on the part of her employer, but nonetheless, when she indicated that the IDPH had received word of the neglect and abuse, she herself was summarily fired two weeks later. She brought a lawsuit against the employer, insisting that her firing was not due to anything other than her whistle-blowing.
Is this case so rare or unusual? An employee notes abuse and neglect and does the right thing. In return, this employee is subjected to workplace abuse and retaliation. Reporting “over the heads” of those at the local level, the worker contacts the corporate office and says that patients are at risk and being abused. This is ignored and so the worker goes directly to the state agency, and for doing so is fired.
Though the precise events may not be identical to other cases, the fact that neglect and abuse were swept under the rug is not so new. In fact, a series of sweeping changes brought about by the White House Conference on Aging and the Affordable Care Act demonstrate that the quality of care, attention, and even training are far too low.
Though none of these factors may have contributed to the issues that led the worker in the story to file complaints, the reality is that administration felt the need to conceal the truth from authorities. Whether it was because of fears of losing funding or financial penalties imposed for inadequate staffing, the tale proves that the system is flawed.
In this story, the woman who filed the reports and then went so far as to file with the department of health is completely in the right. She was an advocate for the patients, and was doing her job accordingly. She should not have been punished and the patients should not have endured such poor care. Unfortunately, this proves that it is important to be vigilant when choosing a nursing home and even while a loved one is in care. If you fear your loved one has been the victim of abuse or neglect, do not hesitate to contact authorities and a qualified attorney.