New bill aims to hold nursing homes accountable following suspicious deaths

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OKLAHOMA CITY - After leaving a family member in the care of a nursing home, many Oklahomans worry about the level of attention they will receive.

A new bill would create a review board to hold nursing homes accountable for deaths or serious injuries to residents.

"A man that I've talked with that's a resident in a nursing home says on the weekend, he's left in the same position for 16 and 18 hours at a time," said Wes Bledsoe, founder of  'A Perfect Cause.'

It's one scenario Bledsoe wants changed.

"Today, we believe 3,500 people are dying of abuse and neglect in Oklahoma nursing homes alone," Bledsoe said.

House Bill 1110 would create an 11 person review board to investigate suspicious deaths of seniors and the disabled.

"In Oklahoma, we rank almost dead last in the nation in caring for our seniors," said Oklahoma Rep. Richard Morrisette.

According to Families for Better Care, Oklahoma received an 'F' in overall nursing home care.

"Whenever there's a death or serious injury in one of these homes, this board will have the legal responsibility to investigate," Rep. Morrisette said.

Those investigations would look to see if the death resulted from abuse or negligence while in long-term care.

Morrisette and other advocates hope this legislation will prevent unnecessary deaths among the elderly.

"Whatever expense we need as a state to protect our vulnerable adults,” Morrisette said. “The expense is an investment. It's not a cost."

The Oklahoma Association of Health Care Providers and the Coalition of Advocates for Responsible Eldercare released the following statement:

"With the proposed legislation just being filed, we are taking time to review it and establish a position. The most important consideration should be the security and safety of the residents in Oklahoma's long term care facilities. We believe that instances of abuse, while very rare, cannot and should not be tolerated."

House bill 1110 is scheduled to be heard at the next legislative season on Feb. 2.

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