Sanctions and Revocation of Nursing Home Licenses
Written by: Michelle C. Berk, Esquire
Although nursing home placement is a difficult decision, there are ways to verify that you are placing your loved one in a secure environment. There is a contact person called a Long Term Care Ombudsman who has a trained staff of volunteers in the Office of Aging and Adult Services in Montgomery County at (610) 278-3600 who can be telephoned and responds to care issues in all the licensed facilities in Montgomery County. There is also a website where anyone can go to check on licensing issues and problems that are reported for various nursing homes. The following site on the Pennsylvania Department of Health website will alert you to issues you should be aware of in your decision:http://app2.health.state.pa.us. In order to search for various types of long term care facilities an informative site is agingpa.psu.edu/g_index.htm., the link to the “Guide to Legal Issues for Pennsylvania Senior Citizens” published on line by the Pennsylvania Bar Association and found on their website.
Pennsylvania state law requires an employee or an administrator of a facility who has reasonable cause to believe that a resident of a licensed facility is a victim of abuse is obligated under law to immediately report the abuse. There is not even a requirement that the reporter be a direct eye witness. Having more than a suspicion obligates them to immediately make an oral report followed up by a written report to law enforcement officials. This reporting requirement protects a care dependent person and applies to all caretakers. Civil and criminal fines and imprisonment for up to one year can be imposed upon the person or facility that commits the violation or abuse.
Pennsylvania law protects nursing home residents by requiring criminal history background checks by the Pennsylvania State police of all employees of public or private nursing homes, personal care facilities, adult daycares and home healthcare workers. Employees with certain felony and misdemeanor convictions are precluded from working in these facilities.
The final sanction under Pennsylvania state law is that a facility can have it’s license revoked or it’s licensing withheld in the first place for any one of the following reasons: gross incompetence, negligence, misconduct in operating the facility or mistreating or abusing an individual cared for in the facility. This sanction applies to both physical and mental abuse of a patient. Hopefully, it serves as a deterrent to such abuse, since the facility cannot do business without a license. Court cases in Pennsylvania have upheld the decision to revoke the license of homes for abuse of patients.
To investigate facilities contact the following telephone numbers:Department of Public Welfare Facilities (Licensed Personal Care Homes: (215) 560-2916
Pa. Health Department (Nursing Homes):
(610) 270-3475 - Norristown Office
(215) 861-2117 - Lehigh Office
Home Health Agencies: (800) 222-0989