State health department rules in favor of family in nursing home camera case

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The Minnesota Department of Health sided with a nursing home resident's family last week in a closely-watched case involving surveillance cameras in resident rooms.

Lisa Papp-Richards filed a complaint with the department earlier this year after she installed a camera in her mother's nursing home room due to concerns over her quality of care. Staff of the facility objected to the camera's placement, at some points covering it up with a towel or unplugging it.

The health department's maltreatment finding in favor of the family is significant in the state, the Star Tribune reported, because it is the first ruling to affirm residents' or families' rights to install cameras in long-term care rooms without fear of backlash from the facility. State law isn't clear on use of the cameras without provider permission.

It's also notable at a time when the health department is facing a backlog of nursing home complaints, leaving families to personally document incidents of suspected abuse or neglect.

“This [case] is hopeful because it sends a nice, powerful message to the public that it's OK to put a camera in a room,” Cheryl Hennen, the state's long-term care ombudsman, told the newspaper.

A spokeswoman for the facility in question told the Tribune they took “immediate action” to fix the complaint, but did not elaborate on whether cameras would now be permitted in residents' rooms.