Exposing the nursing home patient abuse scandal
Friday night, after reading this article, I spoke with State Sen. Karin Housley, (R- St. Mary’s Point) about this scandal. Sen. Housley is the “chairwoman of the Aging and Long-Term Care Policy Committee.”
First, the article startled me when it reported that “the health department investigated 10% of the 3,400 complaints it received about public nursing homes and home-care treatment. In 2016, just 1% of nearly 21,000 cases were investigated through on-site investigations when facilities self-reported incidents.” That information broke my heart.
In our conversation, Sen. Housley said “Since January, I have been working as the Chairwoman of the Aging and Long-Term Care Policy Committee to better understand the problems at the Office of Health Facility Complaints and what the legislature can do to help remedy those issues. While more funds were allocated to the OHFC last session at request of the Governor and the office itself, the problems have unfortunately not improved. It is clear to me, and it is becoming clear to the people of Minnesota, that there are systemic issues within the Minnesota Department of Health and the Office of Health Facility Complaints that need to be addressed before real change can take place. I called on the Governor and the Department of Health Commissioner Ehlinger to give us answers. The recent resignation of Commissioner Ehlinger is a positive first step toward achieving that change. I am hopeful that with legislative action and continued oversight, we can start to make progress and ensure that Minnesota’s most vulnerable are protected.”
Sen. Housley then directed me to the statement she issued after Dr. Ed Ehlinger resigned as the Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Health. Here’s that statement:
SAINT PAUL, MN – Following Tuesday’s resignation of Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Ed Ehlinger, Senator Karin Housley (R-St. Mary’s Point) issued the following statement:
“It is abundantly clear there is an urgent need for systemic changes in Governor Dayton’s health department. For months, we have been hearing horrifying tales of abuse and neglect at Minnesota senior care facilities, complaints being thrown in the trash at the hands of an ineffective bureaucracy, and a climate of intimidation and harassment in this state agency.
There is no question – this change in leadership is desperately needed.
While the resignation of Commissioner Ehlinger is a step forward, there is much work to do to restore the trust of the most vulnerable Minnesotans. I look forward to working with Acting Commissioner Dan Pollock in examining ways to move forward in making absolutely certain our elderly population is cared for with the dignity, compassion, and respect they deserve.
My commitment is to not stop until we achieve meaningful change, as well as justice for the victims of the shameful negligence that has plagued our state for too long.
Senator Karin Housley
It’s clear to me that Sen. Housley won’t let go of this issue until it’s fixed. It’s equally apparent that the Dayton administration, of which Tina Smith is an integral part, isn’t ready for primetime. This has been a problem for quite some time. Why Gov. Dayton didn’t assign a troubleshooter to fix this 2-3 years ago is beyond me. Lt. Gov. Smith was Gov. Dayton’s chief of staff in his first term. Why didn’t she bring this crisis up at the time? This is inexcusable.
Reading this article, I’m left wondering what planet Gov. Dayton is living on:
During his tenure as Commissioner of Health, Dr. Ehlinger made many great strides to improve the health and wellbeing of Minnesotans. Commissioner Ehlinger led the charge to reduce tobacco use, improve community-based health programs through the Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP), improve health equity in our communities, and expand access to life-saving health care for Minnesotans. Dr. Ehlinger also helped lead the state through outbreaks of measles and avian influenza, and led the state’s response to the global threat of Ebola.
It isn’t that I want to diminish Dr. Ehlinger’s accomplishments. It’s that I find it difficult to buy into the notion that “Dr. Ehlinger made many great strides to improve the health and wellbeing of Minnesotans” after finding out that his Department ignored piles of complaints of patient abuse.