In just three years, the number of nursing home monitors in New York declined a whopping 37 percent. According to Utica’s Observer-Dispatch, this sharp decline leaves the number of nursing home monitors at less than half of the state’s mandatory minimums. According to elder care advocates, the number of monitors is now so low that the state could run afoul of the federal Older Americans Act.
According to state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, funding cuts from the state are the primary cause of the shortage. In New York, like many other states, the nursing home monitoring program (also called an ombudsman program) is comprised of both paid state employees and volunteers. While the number of volunteer monitors has remained constant in the last decade, the number of paid monitors has declined. In 2019, only 50 paid staffers were left to cover 900 facilities. In comparison, 600 long-term care facilities have volunteer monitors. Sadly, the nursing homes that are most in need of monitoring appear to the ones stretched thin when it comes to sharing ombudsman.
The reduced access to nursing home monitors causes “many residents… a very diminished quality of life,” volunteer ombudswoman, Sue Schafer told the newspaper. The program provides nursing home residents and patients weekly access to people who are not employed by their facility and can listen to their concerns and advocate on their behalf. Perhaps more importantly, nursing home monitors are responsible for observing a nursing home’s conditions and reporting any suspicious activities or potential abuse.
“The ombudsman program is essential to protecting nursing home residents,” Richard Mollot, executive director of the Long Term Care Coalition told Utica’s Observer Dispatch. “Ombudsmen are the only ones who regularly monitor nursing homes.” With too few nursing home monitors, resident’s concerns are not heard – even when they may involve serious allegations of abuse or health violations. With New York falling to 39th place in the country when it comes to ombudsman access, hopefully the legislators in Albany choose to reverse this trend when they approve their budget later this year.
The attorneys at the Law Offices of Thomas L. Gallivan, PLLC work diligently to protect the rights of nursing home residents. Please contact us to discuss in the event you have a potential case involving neglect or abuse.