A San Diego nursing home investigator turned whistleblower alleges that she was ordered to close cases prematurely by her supervisors at the State of California’s Department of Health. The investigator’s suit alleges discrimination after three of her supervisors discouraged her from seeking treatment for severe carpal tunnel syndrome, denied reasonable accommodation for such condition, and harassed her when she filed a workers’ compensation claim.
In the whistleblowing allegation, the investigator alleged that the supervisors urged her to close cases by “providing false or inaccurate information in investigative files.” One such file involved serious allegations of nursing home conduct which lead to the death of a resident. The investigator claimed that she signed the document under duress, and later contacted the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid to report the illegal conduct.
A patient safety advocate, Marian Hollingsworth believes “[t]hat this really raises red flags because it shows they are not really taking these complaints seriously.” Hollingsworth’s own father died in a nursing home as a result of errors on the part of his caregivers. She cites to a 2014 audit that revealed a statewide backlog of more than 11,000 complaints, many of them involving patients who were immediately in jeopardy.
The California Department of Health claims that the investigator’s case is merely a worker’s compensation issue and that she cannot claim retaliation because there is no proof that she ever reported her supervisors to the federal government.
Are Healthcare Officials Forcing Investigators to Cover-Up Investigations?
It is frightening to think that the nursing home investigators responsible for holding nursing homes accountable could be forging documents and not properly investigating claims, particularly when others may be placing pressure on investigators to do so. States need to focus on eliminating the backlog and insuring integrity in the investigation process to insure that nursing home residents are adequately protected.