New Hampshire’s long-term care facilities have been hit hard by the pandemic. About 80% of the state’s COVID-related deaths have occurred in those facilities. New legislation proposes to study whether the state should appoint an inspector general for nursing homes.
Oversight of nursing homes falls under the state’s Department of Health and Human Services. The federal government also provides oversight.
There is an office of the long-term care ombudsman, charged with investigating and resolving complaints concerning residents.
Donovan Fenton, a Democratic representative from Keene, is sponsoring the bill. He says he’s worried about the pandemic's impact on nursing homes, and says an entity outside of the health department could possibly provide better oversight.
“They have their hands full with a lot of things,” Fenton said. “I think it should be branched off into its own category with an inspector general for accountability of our current systems, regulation, and inspection. There should be an exhaustive review of our state’s nursing home facilities.”
Fenton says he got the idea for a nursing home inspector general partly from steps Los Angeles County took earlier this year. The county appointed an inspector general to develop recommendations on how to strengthen oversight for skilled nursing home facilities and how to improve operations.
“If a county with 10 million people is able to do this, New Hampshire, with 1.4 million people, it would be easy enough,” he said.
Fenton says he’s proposing a study committee for the position because he doesn’t “want to add a layer of bureaucracy without reviewing it fully.”
The bill is co-sponsored with Joe Alexander, a Republican from Goffstown.