SAN FRANCISCO — Nursing homes found to have harmed or neglected patients will face higher fines – up to $100,000 – under a bill signed Thursday by Gov. Gray Davis.
The bill, which Davis signed in the garden of a San Francisco senior center, would raise minimum fines for the most serious violations, such as those that lead to a patient’s death, from the current $5,000 to a range of $25,000 to $100,000.
Less serious violations will be raised to the range of $2,000 to $20,000, from the current minimum of $1,000.
“All of us know we are living in wonderfully prosperous times and we have our parents to thank for that,” Davis said. “They fought wars and they made investments and we have reaped the dividends. It is time for them to live their sunset years with dignity.” The bill was authored by Assemblyman Kevin Shelley, D-San Francisco, and was supported by nursing home administrators, patient advocates and caregivers’ associations, who called it a good start toward improving the state’s nursing facilities. Shelley said he became interested in nursing home laws five years ago after his mother had a stroke and he had to find a facility to care for her. He introduced Thelma Shelley, 79, at the bill signing ceremony.
Patient advocate Pat McGinnis said she appreciated the state’s efforts, but doubted that the increased fines would deter abuse at nursing homes, since the real issue was a shortage of nursing staff.
“I approach this bill with some ambivalence. We’re certainly happy about the bill in some respects. There are some wonderful rights for residents,” said McGinnis, executive director of California Advocates for Nursing Home Reforms. “We don’t want to punish nursing homes, we want to stop the pattern of bad behavior.”