Long-term care nursing residents at risk

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A recent report by the Arizona Auditor General found the way the Arizona Department of Health Services (AZ DHS) looks into complaints of abuse at nursing homes puts long-term care residents at risk. Lindsey A. Perry, Arizona Auditor General, discussed the findings of the report.

In 2019, the report found significant lapses in how the AZ DHS investigated claims, either they were too slow or didn’t investigate at all. A second report found AZ DHS did nothing to rectify this, and with some of the most serious complaints, the department just closed out the complaints without ever doing a required site visit. A third report out on May 25 of this year showed AZ DHS has done some work to fix all this, but nursing home residents are still very much at risk.

“We found that the department was downgrading complaints. These high priority, high risk, sexual assaults, physical abuse and quality of care concerns were being downgraded into lower priorities which allowed them to have more time to investigate,” Perry said.

Investigations were closed without an on-site investigation, and Perry said they don’t know why this continued to happen.

“We have always been trying to get to the why, but we don’t know. I know that there were a number of executive level management changes plus bureau changes. We can never really get to the cause of why this was systematically happening,” Perry said.

Perry said she noted there are cultural issues in the way the department runs itself. She feels the most recent report has shown some progress in changing how the department handles cases.

The department needs to get on top of completing investigations in a timely manner because there is a lot of risk in not doing so, Perry said. Another issue is the prioritization of cases, deciding which ones need to be looked into quickly rather than waiting too long and having it jeopardize an investigation.

Perry said the lack of resources along with staffing concerns and the time it takes to properly train new staff has contributed to the ongoing issues.

Perry said she is hopeful the new leadership in the department is committed to implementing the recommendations made by the report.

Lindsey A. Perry, Arizona Auditor General

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