Lawmakers Review Report Critical of State Agency in Charge of Protecting Vulnerable Adults

March 13, 2018 03:03 PM

Lawmakers are reviewing a new report from the Office of the Minnesota Legislative Auditor that found the state’s Office of Health Facility Complaints has not been meeting its responsibilities to protect vulnerable adults.

The report, presented in a hearing Tuesday, found the OHFC has not met required deadlines for investigating allegations of abuse, neglect and maltreatment.


RELATED: Legislators to Address Reported Lapses in Oversight of State's Senior Care Facilities

Between fiscal years 2012 and 2017, the report found the number of allegation reports OHFC received increased by more than 50 percent, reaching 24,100 in fiscal year 2017.

However, OHFC triaged for onsite investigation only 5 percent of the reports it received that year.

“OHFC does not have an office-wide system in which its supervisors can monitor the progress of cases or the workload of staff,” the report read. “Office leadership told us that they do not know the current size of investigators’ caseloads, and they do not assign cases with respect to investigators’ current workload.”

RELATED: Minnesota Health Commissioner Exits After Senior Care Lapses

The report also faulted the office for poor management. 

Among the findings:

  • The OHFC does not have an effective case management system, which the report said has led to lost files and poor decisions when it comes to allocating resources.
  • The majority of OHFC staff do not have confidence in leadership’s ability to lead the office.

“High staff turnover, few written policies, and a lack of confidence in senior leadership reflect a dysfunctional office culture,” the report read.

RELATED: Legislative Auditor Set to Review Programs that Oversee Vulnerable Minnesotans

The report was presented to state lawmakers Tuesday morning. 

Among the recommendations called for:

  • The Minnesota Department of Health should play a stronger role overseeing OHFC.
  • The State Legislature should require OHFC to regularly report on its progress when it comes to meeting state and federal requirements.
  • The Legislature should amend state law to allow OHFC to inform a vulnerable adult and his or her legal representative when a provider has filed a report that involves the vulnerable adult.
  • The Legislature should require OHFC to post all investigation reports on its website, and OHFC should take steps to improve its website. The report estimated the website may currently be missing 19 percent of reports that, according to OHFC leadership, should be posted.
  • The Legislature should establish a work group to examine the state’s oversight of senior care providers and housing facilities.

RELATED: Videos Show Alleged Abuse of 70-Year-Old Woman By Caregiver

Minnesota health commissioner Jan Malcolm issued a statement in response to the report's findings.

It read in part:

“We have publicly acknowledged that in recent years, OHFC has not met Minnesotans' expectations for investigating maltreatment complaints in a timely way. Since December 2017, we have made significant progress on many of the concerns cited in the OLA's evaluation. Just last week, we announced completing a triage review of all 2,321 reports in our backlog. Our investigation backlog has been reduced by about half – from over 800 cases down to around 400 as of last week. 

“Our progress in reducing and eliminating the backlogs has come thanks in no small part to our inter-agency partnership with the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS). Through this framework, DHS has provided the services of their Office of Continuous Improvement and Office of Inspector General staff to work with MDH staff on process and system improvement.”

RELATED: State Investigation: 'Serious Maltreatment' at Hutchinson Work Care Center

Malcom’s statement agreed with the need for a legislative work group.

“As the report shows, it is unacceptably difficult for the people served, their families and care providers to know which services are regulated – and which are not – under what rules and by which agencies. On this point, the Governor’s workgroup comprised of consumer advocate groups made key recommendations for legislators to consider. The current laws are confusing to the public, and a legislative work group can help deliver positive reforms.” 

Read the full OHFC report here.


Frank Rajkowski

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