Texas Nursing Homes Going Unchallenged in Cases of Abuse and Neglect
Carlson Law Firm’s J.T. Borah Urges State to Allow Patient Appeals, More Judicial Relief
Texas has the highest percentage of one and two-star nursing homes in the country. Additionally, nursing homes in the state have consistently ranked lowest among the 50 states and the District of Columbia at providing care for nursing home residents. Many of Texas’ nursing home abuse and neglect issues stem from a statewide problem of understaffing.
Because of these staggering statistics, Carlson Law Firm Attorney J.T. Borah provided expert testimony before the Texas House of Representatives Committee on Human Services about the state of nursing home abuse and neglect in Texas during a Nov. 13 public hearing. Borah discussed how Texas nursing home residents are suffering because of neglect as a result of understaffing.
“Abuse gets more headlines, but neglect has more victims,” Borah said during the hearing. “The neglect that I see stems from understaffing. With understaffing, we expect to see more falls and bedsores—and those are the majority of my cases.”
Borah lent his support to Health and Human Services Committee’s nursing home regulation rewrites but expressed concern over enforcement. In many cases, aside from a hefty spike in HHSC fines in 2017, Texas nursing homes go largely unchallenged in cases of neglect and abuse. For example, Borah cited the appellate process that allows nursing homes to appeal a complaint. However, abused and neglected residents don’t have those same rights.
Nursing homes can appeal a patient’s complaint to the Ombudsman. However, without the ability to challenge a nursing home’s appeal or denial, patients are left without any recourse of righting the nursing home’s wrongs.
While acknowledging the problem with understaffing in the state, Borah told committee members that a one size fits all approach to addressing staffing issues isn’t the answer. Instead, he supports upcoming state and federal regulations that require nursing homes to staff to their acuity.
Further, he gave his expert opinion and recommendations on regulations that will help protect victims from nursing home abuse and neglect. Borah recommended the state consider allowing victims of nursing home abuse and neglect more avenues to seek recovery through judicial means. He urged the committee to reconsider a bill submitted by Texas State Senator Charles Schwertner from Georgetown in the 85th Legislature. Schwertner’s bill would have required nursing homes in Texas to carry liability insurance. In addition, he recommended trying the settlement cap to the consumer price index.
“Ultimately, I am suing nursing homes to work myself out of a job,” Borah said. “The goal is to improve care.”