Investigators' slow follow-up lets facilities off the hook

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Untimely investigation and poor follow-up to complaints against long-term care providers in Arizona have resulted in the dismissal of more than 80% of cases filed over the last several years, state officials report.

The Board of Examiners of Nursing Care Institution Administrators and Assisted Living Facility Managers (the state board responsible for licensing operators long-term care facilities), is not only slow to investigate complaints, but it also regularly dismisses complaints against administrators of nursing homes and managers of assisted-living centers because of slow investigations, according to a new report by Arizona's Auditor General's Office.

The board was charged with investigating 61 cases filed during the three previous years. The state's Department of Health Services receives complaints against long-term care facilities and forwards cases involving administrators and managers to the state board. Of the 61 cases, the board dismissed 53. In some cases, the years-old complaints were simply dismissed due to missing information, unavailable witnesses or because the person under investigation was not licensed and could not be disciplined, the state Auditor General's Office said. It released its report Dec. 30.

The audit also found that the Board of Examiners had allowed cases to go unresolved for years while the person being investigated continued to work.