Primary Problems: Low Wages, Absentee Owners
An Oklahoma lawmaker issued a press release earlier this week deploring the poor conditions of Oklahoma’s nursing homes.
State Rep. James Lockhart, member of the state’s House Committee on Long-Term Care and Senior Services and a Democrat from southeast Oklahoma, cited several problems with the state’s nursing homes.
“The challenges we face caring for our elderly are numerous,” Lockhart said. “The problems we face are huge.”
The number of senior care facilities in Oklahoma is declining, while the number of nursing home residents is increasing. Lockhart said the problems will only become more severe as the Baby Boom generation continues to age.
Lockhart identified wages and absentee owners as the two primary problems facing the state’s nursing homes.
wages, Lockhart focused particularly on the shortage of experienced “long-term care surveyors,” the state Health Department employees who inspect nursing homes.
Lockhart said many surveyors do not stay with their jobs long because of the extensive travel and long hours the job requires. The Health Department has surveyor turnover of 20% to 25% a year, Lockhart said, citing Dorya Huser, chief of the Health Department’s Long Term Care Service.
Huser said she has 72 surveyors to inspect 322 nursing homes scatteredd across the state, and 12 more surveyors to monitor another 270 assisted living centers, residential care facilities and adult day-care centers.
State long-term care surveyors can parlay their knowledge of care facilities and federal and state regulations into better paying jobs in the health care industry.
Nursing homes themselves also experience high turnover due to low wages. Lockhart quoted Brian Lee, executive director of Families for Better Care, who said, “Inadequate staffing contributed to the enormity of Oklahoma’s nursing home neglect.”
Lockhart also complained about “absentee ownership.” Many Oklahoma facilities are owned by corporations and individuals not based in Oklahoma. Such facilities “don’t have the close ties to the community” that locally owned facilities do, Lockhart said.
Earlier this year, nursing home advocates proposed House Bill 2901 to address some of the problems in Oklahoma nursing homes. I wrote an opinion piece in March criticizing Rep. David Dank, a Republican and chairman of the Long-term Care and Senior Services Committee, for refusing to allow HB 2901 to even be considered by his committee.
The bill would have required nursing facilities to identify their owners and stockholders. The bill also would have increased Oklahoma’s mandatory direct-care-staff-to-resident ratios, particularly at skilled-care facilities.
Lockhart related the story of June Ballou, a Seminole woman whose 98-year-old mother lives in a Norman nursing home. Ballou sent an email earlier this month to the House Committee. She told lawmakers that her mother is legally blind, hard of hearing, has arthritis and has suffered a stroke.
“Because of these handicaps, she requires help with every aspect of daily living,” Ballou wrote. However, she said, residents are forced to miss meals, baths and other personal care and miss out on daily activities because nursing homes do not have enough aides to attend to all of their residents’ needs.
For More Information
We have provided a number of webpages with more information about problems in Oklahoma nursing homes. See: “Nursing Home Abuse.”
If you or a loved one has experienced abuse or neglect in an Oklahoma nursing home, get in touch with us for a free consultation. Contact Hasbrook & Hasbrook by telephone (866-416-4737), email ([email protected]) or use our website contact form: Contact Us.