State Backlog of Elder Abuse and Maltreatment Complaints Almost Cleared

August 01, 2018 10:19 PM

The Minnesota Department of Health’s Office of Health Facility Complaints announced Wednesday they are down to one complaint awaiting investigation, compared to 826 at the end of 2017.

"We've put a lot of work into this and we have taken this very serious, we have a ways to go still with improvement but we have made significant changes," said Minnesota Assistant Health Commissioner Gil Acevedo.

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS first exposed back in 2016 the Department of Health’s backlog of investigations. In the five previous years, data showed 60 to 84 percent of the cases weren't investigated in the 60 calendar day requirement under state law.

INVESTIGATION: Minnesota Failing to Investigate Nursing Home Complaints on Time

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"I remember that interview with you and at that time we were really in a paper-based system, our processes were pretty much antiquated and nonexistent,” Acevedo said.

The Department of Health now uses an electronic document management system that allows them to receive cases from the Minnesota Adult Abuse Reporting Center.

“We don’t have to print cases and have concerns of misplacing cases,” said Acevedo.

RELATED: MDH: Assisted Living Facility Neglected Woman Who Died of Hypothermia After Wandering Away

During 2017, the total report and investigation backlog was more than 3,100, according to the state’s website.

The Department of Health was under increased pressure during the last legislative session by lawmakers and the governor to make changes to their process of handling elder abuse and maltreatment complaints.

The Department of Health now partners with the Department of Human Services to investigate complaints, requires all maltreatment reports to undergo an initial review within two days and created a dashboard for the public to see their process.

RELATED: Police Report Reveals More about 'Neglect' Death of 63-Year-Old at Northfield Facility

"My hope is that they haven't been rushing through this just to get to the finish line," said elder law attorney Joel Smith.

Smith said he still sees delays when it comes to reaching investigators assigned to work cases and cases being shared with families weeks after being completed, but has seen more new investigators handling cases.

"We are in a better spot than we were than before this came to light and we are nowhere near where the citizens of Minnesota deserve to be," Smith said.

To search Minnesota health care provider complaints, click here.

RELATED: MDH: Northfield Facility Neglected Woman Who Died from 2nd Fall in 2 Weeks

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Eric Chaloux

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