Order allows nursing care for disabled girl to continue

October 01, 1997|By Joan Jacobson | Joan Jacobson,SUN STAFF

Bernadette Riordan won another round yesterday in her three-year fight with the state to maintain government-financed nursing care for the disabled daughter she cares for at home.

A Baltimore County judge granted a preliminary injunction preventing state health officials from cutting off nursing care for Jamie Riordan, 17, while her mother appeals a state decision to replace Jamie's nurse with a less experienced home health aide.

Jamie, who lives with her mother in Perry Hall, was born with a birth defect that left her blind, with seizures and unable to walk, talk, swallow or think beyond the ability of a 10-month-old.

Jamie had been cared for eight hours a day by a government-financed nurse beginning in 1992, when her mother switched from private insurance to Medicaid.

But in 1994, state officials told Riordan the nurse would be replaced with a home health aide. Riordan, supported by her daughter's pediatrician and nurses, has been fighting the state since.

Yesterday's decision by Circuit Judge Barbara Kerr Howe -- after an hourlong hearing -- was not a complete victory for Riordan, however. Under the judge's order, Riordan still might have to hire a home health aide a few hours a day to supplement nursing care.

Howe ordered the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to follow a settlement agreement between health officials and Riordan in April that combined five hours of nursing care with three hours of home health aides each day.

That agreement never took effect because Riordan was unable to find a home health aide who would work only a few hours a day, said her lawyer, James F. Rosner. Consequently, the state has continued to pay for eight hours of nursing care a day.

Rosner said yesterday that if Riordan is still unable to a find a part-time home health aide, she can revert to full-time nursing care, according to the settlement agreement. Jamie now requires full-time nursing care because she is recovering from pneumonia, an illness that calls for such care under the agreement.

After yesterday's hearing, state officials declined to comment.

Rosner said Riordan will continue her fight by appealing the state's decision to eliminate nursing care.

Pub Date: 10/01/97

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