Don't cut back on inspections [Letter]

July 22, 2014

I read the article, "Md. health agency cutting inspections (July 20), with dismay. My parents were in a beautiful assisted living facility in Anne Arundel County. We noticed many unsettling events and brought them to the attention of the facility's director and owner. Promises were made but improvements were not and things were going steadily downhill.

After several months, we noticed that the stairwell doors were locked with furniture stored in the stairwells. I called the Anne Arundel Fire Inspector and asked how often the facilities were inspected. He said every three months but when I asked the date of the last inspection, he "would have to get back" to me. The next day, fire inspectors showed up at the facility and the furniture was removed and the doors unlocked.

After discussions with other residents' family members and seeing errors made in regard to medications and other treatments, I wrote a letter to U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski detailing the problems at the facility. She responded that it was not a national issue (although it is) and forwarded my letter to the governor's office. It was forwarded to the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. When I was contacted, I told them that both my sister and I, as well as other residents' family members, had been calling the hot line for months with no response. There seemed to be no records of these calls but an investigation was opened and a visit was scheduled with the facility.

The inspection took place over three days and I received a 47-page report with hundreds of serious violations. I was also told that another inspection would be taking place and no new residents could be admitted until all violations were corrected. The report showed that residents were given incorrect medication, in some cases no medication, records were not kept or falsified, cleaning supplies were not stored correctly — the list went on and on.

I know the impact that this change will have on health care facilities. The properly run facilities will continue to be properly run but the borderline and flat out bad facilities will have no incentive to follow the rules or improve the facilities. This ruling will impact the most vulnerable citizens — the sick and elderly. I was saddened by the number of residents in the health care facility where my parents lived who never had visitors. Who is watching out for these people? Too many times, I saw the residents ask for help or try to tell the caregivers that something was wrong only to be ignored. The facility was understaffed and the caregivers were underpaid.

This is only going to get worse. How many people are going to die before Maryland's legislators wake up to the crisis in our state?

Libby Clause, Millersville

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