March 04,2002

Grassley Comment on Physical Abuse in Nursing Homes

A new report from the General Accounting Office (GAO), requested by Sens. ChuckGrassley and John Breaux, finds that law enforcement plays only a minor role in investigating andprosecuting cases of physical and sexual abuse of nursing home residents. The report is the subjectof a Special Committee on Aging hearing today. Grassley, ranking member of the Committee onFinance, has a long history of working to improve the government’s oversight of the nation’s nursinghomes, beginning in 1998 under his chairmanship of the Special Committee on Aging. Grassleymade the following comment on the new GAO report.

“Federal law says nursing homes have to keep or improve the quality of life of each resident.A nursing home that allows its residents to suffer physical and sexual abuse is failing to meet oneof its most important obligations. Today’s report shows that not only do some nursing homes subjectresidents to abuse, but they also add insult to injury by failing to notify police when abuse occurs.This is shocking, and it’s unacceptable. A crime is a crime, whether it occurs in a school, a park ora nursing home. If a teacher beat up a student, everyone would demand justice. The same shouldbe true when a nursing home employee beats up a resident.

“In the short term, Administrator Tom Scully of the Centers for Medicare and MedicaidServices immediately should implement the GAO’s recommendations to better protect nursing homeresidents. The recommendations appear to be cost-free. With aggressive oversight from Congress,CMS has made some progress toward improving nursing home quality. That trend has to continue.

“Next, Congress and the Administration need to find ways to improve nursing home staffing.Nursing homes clearly need staff who won’t abuse residents. It’s important to note that manynursing homes make the current system work without quality or abuse problems. But we need to fixthe situation for all the others that don’t make the current system work. I look forward to addressingthe nursing home staffing issue in the coming weeks.”