Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Bill inspired by Blair Manor closure clears Judiciary Committee

HARTFORD — A bill that seeks to give nursing home residents a stronger voice during receivership processes unanimously cleared the legislature’s Judiciary Committee this week.

The bill, introduced by Sen. John A. Kissel, R-Enfield, is a response to the way in which Blair Manor, a now-shuttered Enfield nursing home, was closed in a state-controlled receivership last year without residents or their family members having an opportunity to voice their concerns before the court.

Within six months of the facility’s closure, 18 former Blair Manor residents died, eight of them in just over a month after they were relocated from the facility. Several family members, nurses, and an expert familiar with the circumstances of the situation said the stress of relocating — known as transfer trauma — likely played a role in some of those deaths.

Prior to the closure, Blair Manor nurses and family members of residents voiced concerns about transfer trauma, and other issues they had with the receivership process before the Enfield Town Council, but were not given a chance to be heard in court.

In a receivership, in which a legally appointed receiver takes control of a struggling facility and makes a determination as to whether it is viable enough to continue operating under new ownership, no public hearing is required. In a certificate of need process, in which the state has the power to approve or deny a facility’s request to add or eliminate a service, a public hearing must be held within 30 days of the request.

Kissel’s bill, Senate Bill 1088, passed out of the committee as a “joint favorable substitute,” meaning the language of the bill would be subsequently changed. The substitute language requires a judge to allow a resident to be heard during a receivership proceeding without requiring them to apply to be a party to the case.

The initial language of the bill had called for residents and their guardians to be notified in writing prior to the closure of any nursing home facility, and be fully informed of the circumstances of the closure, important dates, and their right to an appeal hearing. The earlier version also sought to prevent the court from granting an application for the appointment of a receiver unless the court has received evidence that the consultative process between a resident, guardian, and facility representative has taken place.

Many people, including Mairead Painter, the state’s long-term care ombudsman, praised the intent of the bill, but disagreed with the bill’s content. Speaking during a public hearing before the committee April 3, Painter said that the bill essentially put the cart before the horse, as a receiver’s initial appointment doesn’t involve the involuntary transfer of nursing home residents.

“Prior to the completion of a viability study, which is completed by the receiver, we would not know if the nursing home will be able to be sold or if it will move toward closure,” she said. “We would be unable to give the resident or authorized representative the accurate information needed to make an informed decision at that time.”

Painter added that in every receivership or potential closure of a nursing home, her office, as well as the Department of Public Health and the Department of Social Services communicate regularly, and hold informational meetings at the nursing home for residents and their representatives. Painter also said that if a nursing home is found to be not viable, residents are provided protections and appeal rights, including a hearing.

The Social Services Department also disputed the necessity of the earlier version of the bill in written testimony submitted to the committee. The department said the bill was “unnecessary” because the current statutes already require facilities to provide residents with sufficient notice prior to any transfer or discharge. The department also said the potential delay caused by the consultative process before appointing a receiver could “be more harmful to a facility and its residents,” as receivers are appointed in emergency situations, and such an appointment is necessary to allow the department to pass Medicaid funds to the facility to keep it operating.

At the April 3 hearing, Kissel thanked Painter and the others who submitted testimony, and vowed to work with them to reach a solution “we all can live with.” Kissel said that at the least, people deserve a right to be heard.

“It doesn’t take a lot to afford people simple human dignity to be able to express themselves in a proceeding,” he said.

At the Judiciary Committee’s meeting Monday, Kissel said the new language of the bill had been negotiated, and thought they had ended up with a “good product.”

Full Article & Source:
Bill inspired by Blair Manor closure clears Judiciary Committee

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