Nancy W. Trentham represents the nonprofit Kentucky Initiative for Quality Nursing Home Standards. She recently wrote a great editorial about Kentucky's attempts to create "medical review panels". House Bill 361 proposed by Rep. Melvin Henley, D-Murray "would create so-called "medical review panels" explicitly designed to thwart resident justice and provide specific benefit to well-heeled corporate interests".
"It would have to funnel through a "star chamber" chock-full of attorneys and physicians (mind you, there are no consumer representatives on the panel) to obtain the official seal of approval before his case can make its way to court.
Unlike every other citizen, unlike every other injured person, you cannot go to court unless and until you go to the special panel. This will take you and your family more time and will cost you more money.
And, it is important to remember, these panels are tipped in the providers' favor. Not only do operators have a cadre of shrewd lawyers defending them, but the panel members hearing the case would be professionally biased toward their nursing home pals. Even if you decide to engage in this bureaucratic nightmare, you might as well kiss speedy justice goodbye.
These panels could take up to six drawn-out months to render a decision, if all parties are able to participate. Some rural communities may have difficulty locating physicians or attorneys willing to close their practices for a day to take part in these panels. They know if they do participate that would be lost income for them and a hardship on their own patients and clients — not to mention a detriment to their local economies.
"So why are lawmakers picking on nursing home residents who have done nothing wrong? Money. Nursing homes rake in millions of dollars. The corporate fat cats have decided profiteering outweighs resident safety and care, and defending against lawsuits is a nuisance to their revenue stream.
If the industry can erect enough barriers to slow or stop lawsuits, then CEOs can fill the corporate coffers and ensure happy shareholders. Meanwhile, care worsens for residents by giving more protection to providers and less to residents."
The solution is to employ sufficient numbers of qualified caregivers. "According to the nursing home industry's own data, both the cost and the frequency of lawsuits in Kentucky declined when staffing ticked higher. By investing in their own work force, nursing home companies will yield a higher rate of return Not only will residents enjoy a higher quality of life and care, but lawsuits will also decline. Seems like a no-brainer."