(OAKLAND, Calif.) - Attorney General Bill Lockyer today announced the launching of "Operation Guardians" in Alameda County, focusing the new partnership of state, local and federal agencies on abuse and neglect of elderly Californians in nursing homes in the San Francisco Bay Area.
"Through Operation Guardians, new scrutiny will be placed on nursing homes with surprise visits at any time, including evenings and weekends," Lockyer said. "In addition to any resulting enforcement actions for health and safety violations, the unannounced on-site visits will create new incentives for nursing homes to deliver quality care all the time, not just before an anticipated inspection."
Lockyer earlier this year launched Operation Guardians in Los Angeles, where the US General Accounting Office and congressional investigators recently reported serious problems with nursing home care. Other Operation Guardian teams are being developed for San Diego and Sacramento.
According to a November 1999 GAO report, nearly one-third of the nursing homes in California caring for Medicare/Medicaid patients had been cited for serious care violations. A congressional report in June 2000 found 94 percent of the 288 nursing homes in the San Francisco Bay Area had at least one violation with the potential to cause more than minimal harm to residents. There were 119 nursing homes - more than one out of every three - were found to have had a violation that caused actual harm to nursing home residents or placed the residents at risk of death or serious injury.
Operation Guardians is a cooperative effort of the Attorney General's Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse; California Department of Aging, State Long Term Care Ombudsman Program; Alameda County District Attorney's Office; Alameda County Housing Authority; Oakland City Attorney's Office; City of Oakland Building Department; Oakland City Fire Department; and Office of Inspector General, US Department of Health and Human Services. Also participating in the effort are the University of Southern California School of Medicine, UCLA School of Medicine, and the Medical Board of California.
"California is graying rapidly with an estimated 43 percent of all 65-year-olds needing a nursing home at some time in their lives," Lockyer said. "We have a responsibility as public guardians to ensure the safety and welfare of our frail elderly and disabled adults living in nursing homes."
In the operation, state investigators, local fire marshals, code enforcement officials and patient-care specialists will make random, unannounced visits to nursing homes. Local inspectors will review physical structures for sanitation, safety and fire hazards, while health experts will help detect any abuse and neglect of nursing home residents. State and local prosecutors on the team will be available to bring legal action if evidence of abuse or neglect warrant criminal action. Additionally, any health quality violations will be referred to the state Department of Health Services.