According to a federal government audit, more than 25% of instances of physical and/or sexual abuse in nursing homes across the country go unreported. The study, part of a Medicare audit, allocates most of the blame to Medicare officials for failing to abide by legal requirements that they notify law enforcement officers.
Because of the findings, conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services inspector general’s office, an “early alert” was issued in late August, call for Medicare officials to take immediate corrective action. The study, which included a review of cases in 33 different states, found more than 130 instances where hospital ER records showed potential sexual or physical abuse, or neglect. In almost one third of the cases, there was no evidence that the concerns were ever communicated to local law enforcement agencies, even though federal law requires immediate disclosure of such concerns.
Under the federal statute governing the reporting of nursing home neglect and abuse, which has been in effect for more than five years, nursing home workers and owners who suspect that a crime has been committed must immediately report those concerns, and must do so within two hours, if serious bodily injury has occurred. Absent serious bodily injury, the disclosure must be made within 24 hours.
Officials say that, even with the cases that did get reported to police, it was not possible to determine if the reporting had been done within the required time period. Of those cases that were not reported to police, more than 80% involved either rape or criminal sexual conduct.
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