Judge orders state to speed up complaint investigations

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In a ruling that could cause ripple effects around the country, a judge has ordered California's health department to dramatically clear its backlog of nursing home complaint investigations.
The judge ordered the agency to eliminate nearly half its backlog and start investigating at least 80% of new complaints within four months.
Further, the agency is to entirely clear its backlog within eight months, ruled San Francisco Superior Court Judge Peter J. Busch.
"I don't see a reason why it can't be done,'' Busch told the attorneys in the case. "Unless the court puts pressure on . . . it won't be done.''
A spokeswoman for one of the state's provider associations praised the ruling, saying it would help providers more promptly learn what went wrong or, just as importantly, clear the names of facilities found to be in good standing.
"We support timely inspections because if something has gone wrong, we want to know," said Betsey Hite, director of public affairs for the California Association of Health Facilities. "And if something hasn't gone wrong, we want to know. It's in everyone's interest to get to a timely conclusion."
Advocates of the elderly sued the state for its failure to aggressively investigate complaints.
As of mid-August, the agency had at least 460 cases, some dating from January of this year, that had not been investigated, according to records. Agency leaders have said they have too few inspectors to investigate allegations within the 10-day deadline mandated by law.
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