Minnesota Health Commissioner Exits After Senior Care Lapses

December 19, 2017 10:16 PM

Minnesota's Department of Health commissioner is resigning.

Gov. Mark Dayton's office announced Tuesday that Commissioner Ed Ehlinger would step down. Ehlinger had been head of the state's health oversight board since 2011.

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The announcement didn't specify why Ehlinger was resigning but it follows a series of media reports on serious oversight lapses of the state's senior care facilities.

Attorney Mark Kosieradzki says senior care cases have consumed about 90 percent of his law firm's work over the last 15 years.

"We started investigating these cases and finding out more and more it was 1,000 times worse than I ever imagined," he said.

Complaints regarding the treatment of Minnesota's seniors in assisted living have long been largely neglected.
Earlier this year, the legislative auditor launched an investigation noting since 2010, maltreatment allegations received by the Office of Health Facilities Complaints grew from less than 4,000 a year to more than 24,000 a year.

In 2016, the OHFC, which is part of the Department of Health, was only able to investigate 2 percent of those claims.

In November 2016, a KSTP investigation revealed data that showed the majority of the Minnesota Department of Health's investigations also weren't being completed on time.

"We have clients who call, file complaints, that never hear anything. Never sees the light of day," said Kosieradzki.

With the sudden shift in leadership fromEhlinger to Interim Comissioner Dan Pollock, Kosieradzki is hopeful it's the beginning of significant change he's been waiting on for years.

"We see women being raped. We're seeing drugs being stolen. We're seeing people getting overdosed with drugs and killed," he said of the cases he takes on.

Dayton will soon appoint a new commissioner, but the changes at the DOH aren't over yet.

Legislative Auditor Jim Nobles is expected to finish his report regarding senior care sometime in the coming months.

He declined to say what he's uncovered so far, but he did say he recently conveyed concerns to now former commissioner Ehlinger and other state leaders regarding his findings.

The legislature has added nearly $9 million to be spent in the next two years to hire more investigators and reduce case loads at the Office of Health Facilities Complaints.

It's also moving to an electronic case management system set to launch next month.

Credits

The Associated Press

(Copyright 2017 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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