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One policy change a few years ago led to streamlined and shortened public reports. French said it was designed to limit the amount of time investigators spend on paperwork, make reports easier to read and protect witness identities. Some believe it has also had the effect of reducing outside scrutiny of incidents and the ensuing investigations.
Then, in recent months, the office has begun omitting the dates that incidents occurred in an effort to keep that information from reporters and prevent them from contacting relatives of people who have been victimized in licensed-care settings.
“The purpose is to provide a public summary of the investigation,” French said. “It isn’t supposed to be we are recreating everything that happened.”
Yet omitting core facts often matters to families and their advocates, Kosieradzki, the attorney, said.
“I think it’s very troublesome if a report is not listed to a date, listed to documents, listed with witnesses interviewed, listed with facts,” he said. “I’m very troubled by it. It raises a question of the validity of the finding either way.”
Kosieradzki said one client who felt she had received neglectful care at a nursing home had no idea the state had conducted an inquiry and has no memory of being interviewed by investigators.
Investigators concluded there was no neglect, but now Kosieradzki and his client are fighting the Health Department in court to release basic information about the investigation.
“The investigator’s conclusion contradicts the sworn testimony and the evidence,” he said.
When Sandi Lubrant’s mother experienced persistent medication errors at an assisted-living facility, the family filed a complaint and Lubrant dealt firsthand with the OHFC. She said the agency did not seem consumer-friendly and didn’t take the data she provided seriously.
The experience undercut her confidence in the state’s ability to protect vulnerable adults.
“If I had another friend in a situation, I might say file a complaint,” she said. But, she added, “If you’re looking for an immediate action or to protect your loved one, it’s not what I would recommend.”
Brad Schrade • 612-673-4777