If a long term care facility accepts residents who receive Medicare or Medicaid benefits, they are compensated for the care of these residents by the federal government. Any nursing home in the United States which accepts residents with Medicare or Medicaid benefits is therefore subject to federal regulation under the Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987. This act, passed by Congress in response to widespread complaints about the quality of care in US nursing homes, lays out the basic rights and regulations for nursing homes across the country. Any state or district regulation that a local government may choose to impose will, therefore, supplement the federal code.
Washington D.C. Department of Health
While the District of Columbia is not a state, it is still largely self-governed and has many of the same local policies and procedures for organizing its citizens that a traditional state might have. This includes the District of Columbia Department of Health, which licenses, oversees, and inspects nursing homes in the district through its Health Care Facilities Division and Intermediate Care Facilities Division. The D.C. Department of Health also has its own code or set of regulations, which guide its evaluation and accreditation of nursing homes in addition to the federal laws.
Since the D.C. Department of Health oversees most health care facilities in the district, including hospitals, maternity centers, hospice care centers, and group homes, they define a nursing home as a “a 24-hour inpatient facility, or distinct part thereof, primarily engaged in providing professional nursing services, health-related services, and other supportive services needed by the patient/resident.”
DC Board of Long Term Care Administration
In the District of Columbia, there is a board of five individuals known as the DC Board of Long Term Care Administration which regulates the administration of nursing homes for the area. The board is appointed by the mayor and must consist of one chair, two licensed nursing home administrators, one nursing home administration teacher, one licensed physician or osteopath, and one consumer. The board's primary job is to advise the mayor on nursing home administration and to enforce the law. They are also responsible for
- Evaluating administration applicants' qualifications
- Giving nursing home administration exams
- Recommending standards and procedures
- Issuing licenses
- Receiving and reviewing nursing home complaints
- Requesting investigations
- Conducting hearings
- Issuing subpoenas
Municipal Regulations for Nursing Facilities
Regulatory bodies for long-term care facilities in the District of Columbia follow the municipal regulations for nursing facilities, created by the Department of Health. These regulations cover all the major aspects of nursing homes, from maintenance of facilities, grounds, and safety equipment to the medical care and protections provided to each resident. They also detail how nursing staff should be scheduled, how medications must be labeled and administered and lay out a list of resident rights. These rights include but are not limited to
- Freedom from discrimination in treatment or access to services
- To be fully informed by the nursing facility of all resident rights and all facility rules
- To either manage his or her own personal finances or be given a quarterly report of his or her finances if this responsibility has been delegated in writing to the nursing facility
- To be treated with respect and dignity and assured privacy during treatment and when receiving personal care
- To associate and communicate privately with persons of the resident's choice, unless medically contraindicated
- To send and receive personal mail, unopened by personnel at the nursing facility
- To keep and use personal clothing and possessions, as space permits
- To maintain, at the nursing facility, a private locker, chest, or chest drawer that is large enough to accommodate jewelry and small personal property and that can be locked by the resident
- To be free from mental or physical abuse
- To be free from chemical and physical restraints except as authorized pursuant to federal or District law and regulation
- To be discharged from the nursing facility after receiving a consultation from a physician of the medical consequences of discharge
The municipal regulations additionally state that if an incident of abuse or neglect is reported, it should be investigated by the Medical Director or the Director of Nursing within 48 hours following the incident. The incident should then be documented on the resident's record and reported to the licensing agency within 48 hours. If the resident is harmed, the incident should be reported within 8 hours.
Inspections of Washington D.C. nursing homes are carried out by Health Care Facilities Division (HCFD) and Intermediate Care Facilities Division of the D.C. Department of Health. The inspections will occur once every 12 to 15 months without prior notification of the facility, or in the event of a complaint made to the Department of Health. The inspections, known as “surveys” are designed to “ensure health, safety, sanitation, fire, and quality of care requirements.” They also ensure that each long-term care facility which accepts Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement from the federal government is abiding by federal standards.
After completing these surveys or inspections, the HCFD will send a report of violations to the nursing home in question. They will give the facility a certain period of time in which to address the concerns in a written plan which will be submitted to the HCFD for review and follow up. The D.C. Department of Health has an online list of recent surveys of each nursing home in the district for public record. Before placing your loved one in a Washington D.C. nursing home, you may wish to review these surveys.
Protecting D.C. Nursing Home Residents
If you are considering taking legal action against a nursing home located in the District of Columbia, it is important to find an attorney who has extensive knowledge of local rules, regulations and governing bodies. Although Washington D.C. has an organization dedicated to the licensing and inspection of nursing homes, it is not possible for them to thoroughly and promptly address every claim of neglect or abuse in the district. Nursing home abuse can have long-lasting and detrimental effects on the elderly and should be remedied as soon as possible to avoid negative consequences. Trial attorneys Charles Gilman and Briggs Bedigian stand ready to work with you and your loved one to expose and combat elder abuse and to seek financial compensation for physical and emotional losses and trauma.