Oklahoma City, Okla. - People piled into the state Capitol who say their loved ones suffered nursing home abuse or neglect, and they want the state officials regulating those facilities out.
In pictures, Susan Baker hugs her mom, Anna Trumbly.
"My mom loved all of us kids," said Baker.
She holds the good memories close, but can't forget the night the nursing home called with bad news."The phone rang and it was 8:00 at night, and they said your mother has fallen out of her wheel chair," said Baker.
She rushed over to see her mother's injuries.
"We get to the hospital, and I see my mom with a huge goose egg, her head cracked open, blood coming out of it," said Baker. "Your knees buckle because you think, 'How in the world did she do this?'."
One after the other sharing similar stories. Like Christina Anderson.
"I found my mother almost dead her mouth was completely covered with white scabs the inside of her mouth," said Anderson. "She was basically in a coma slumped over unresponsive when I got there that morning. I insisted that they take her vital signs, and they saw that she was in bad shape. And I insisted that they call an ambulance and get her to the hospital. That's where we found out the extent of the dehydration and the urinary tract infection."
She filed a complaint with the state. "The Department of Human Services did not interview me in their investigation," said Anderson. "The Department of Health long term care took seven and half months to investigate my complaint, and when they did, they did not interview me," said Anderson. "On their form, they said the family was contacted."
State officials say that's normal. Sometimes They can't find families to investigate further.
"As important as this is, they need to make every effort to contact the people who filed a complaint or the resident," said Anderson.
She made more complaints, but the state found her mother's care givers in compliance with laws.
The group called 'A Perfect Cause' rallied Thursday with one purpose.
"We have to fire seven state officials," says Director Wes Bledsoe.
The group wants State Department of Health's Commissioner Terry Cline, Vice Commissioner Hank Hartsell, Chief Dorya Huser, Department of Human Services's Edward Lake, Barbara Kidder, Jeannie McCullough and Ester Houser to resign.
"If they don't' go within 45 days, we're going to do everything we can to file legal action against the state," said Bledsoe.
Bledsoe says the regulatory agencies fail to protect vulnerable residents by allowing nursing homes to self-investigate serious incidents without conducting investigations by the state.
However, the Department of Health's Dorya Huser says that's not true. She says the state investigates all complaints. She says nursing homes, by law, have to report all incidents to the state. The state reviews and investigates those cases.
The State Department of Health sent us this statement saying, "In the past 15 months, the OSDH has taken significant steps to increase recruitment of our clinical health facility surveyors to fill vacant positions that have, on occasion, contributed to complaint response delays. The majority of those who fill the surveyor positions have years of experience as an RN and are much in demand. In addition to the training and experience they bring to their new position, they will train for up to one year before becoming certified to inspect long term care facilities."
Another issue the group has with the state regulators: Beldsoe says they fail to accept photographic and video evidence provided by families as a basis for investigative findings or to cite deficiencies.
Huser says the state has always accepted videos and photos and it does investigate the video. However, the state, by law, can't base a conclusion on a case based solely on a photo or video because of possible tampering.
A Perfect Cause says that's not enough explanation. Bledsoe says the District Attorney used hidden camera footage to jail a woman caught stuffing a glove in a 96-year-old patient's mouth. So he questions why can't the state use other videos to determine abuse.
"The threshold for a criminal investigation is much higher than a regulatory investigation," said Bledsoe.
"This is why these seven officials must go."
As for Baker, her mom died two weeks ago because of several illnesses.
She hopes the state investigates her mother's case thoroughly.
"You walk in, see her sitting her in her feces and pee on the floor, you think, 'My God. That's my mother.' Something needs to be done," said Baker.
Below is the statement the Department of Health sent to News Channel Four in its entirety:
Oklahoma State Department of Health
Statement on Long-term Care Issues in Oklahoma
December 10, 2013
The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) is committed to ensuring that all residents in Oklahoma’s long-term care facilities receive services that will keep these vulnerable populations protected and safe. The OSDH is diligent in our efforts to confirm that quality of care issues for these residents are pursued, investigated, and remedied. In general, we find that the majority of Oklahoma’s long-term care providers are in compliance. Even so, our agency fines providers more than $1 million each year in penalties and we are aggressive in assuring these facilities receive up-to-date training on the latest care issues.
In the past 15 months, the OSDH has taken significant steps to increase recruitment of our clinical health facility surveyors to fill vacant positions that have, on occasion, contributed to complaint response delays. The majority of those who fill the surveyor positions have years of experience as an RN and are much in demand. In addition to the training and experience they bring to their new position, they will train for up to one year before becoming certified to inspect long term care facilities.
The nursing home regulatory system can be complicated to understand, and that’s why the OSDH has posted a link to a long-term care consumer web page on our agency website at http://www.health.ok.gov with answers to frequently asked questions regarding long-term care in Oklahoma.
Ensuring quality care is provided to our frail and vulnerable populations takes a coordinated effort between facility operators, state and federal regulators and friends and family of long-term care facility residents.
The Department of Human Services sent us this statement:
The Oklahoma Department of Human Services is committed to ensuring the safety and well-being of vulnerable adults and residents of long-term care facilities, and takes allegations of abuse or neglect seriously.
The DHS Ombudsman Program, working with trained staff at Area Agencies on Aging and with citizen advocates, has a long history of providing substantial advocacy to residents in nursing homes, assisted living centers and residential care facilities. The Ombudsman role is not enforcement, but rather to resolve issues to the satisfaction of the residents. The Ombudsman Program addressed more than 5,000 complaints last year originating from residents, friends, family members and anonymous sources.
The DHS Adult Protective Services staff investigated more than 15,000 allegations of abuse and neglect of vulnerable Oklahomans, most living in their own homes. Investigators found nearly 8,000 vulnerable adults experienced abuse, neglect, exploitation or self-neglect. APS also helps victims and their families find and obtain needed services.
More information about services for vulnerable adults is posted on the DHS website at http://www.okdhs.org. To report suspected abuse or neglect of a vulnerable adult, call the local county DHS office.