"This is an important step toward reestablishing the trust between Oklahomans and their state's nursing home system," said Rep. Lee Denney. "Over the last few months, that trust has suffered some serious blows, but hopefully by reforming this system, we can ensure that our nursing homes present a safe and reliable residency option for our state's senior citizens."
House Bill 1453, by Denney, R-Cushing, would require the Oklahoma State Board of Examiners for Nursing Home Administrators to handle complaints in a public forum and requires the installation of 13 new board members.
The legislation comes after a recent investigation by The Tulsa World found the Oklahoma State Board of Examiners for Nursing Home Administrators was not complying with the state's Open Meetings Act and was routinely dismissing complaints without a public vote.
The board, which is currently under investigation by Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson, licenses and disciplines more than 800 nursing home administrators.
The World investigation revealed the board has dismissed 83 percent of complaints against nursing home administrators - often at the urging of a board subcommittee comprised of nursing home owners. The review also found that dismissed cases included incidents in which nursing home residents "died, suffered burns or other serious injuries, or were victims of abuse or neglect."
To reduce potential conflicts of interest, HB 1453 would reduce the number of board members who have a financial interest in nursing homes. Under the bill's provisions, only five of the 13 board members would be nursing home operators, compared to eight under current law.
The new law also requires every investigation conducted by the board to be completed within 180 days with no more than two 60-day extensions allowed.