OKLAHOMA CITY — Lawmakers gathered Wednesday at the state Capitol to consider legislation favorable to nursing home owners, while one lawmaker had his own public hearing to decry the possible effect of the legislation.
Richard Morrissette, a south Oklahoma City Democrat, said a provision included in proposed legislation would make it even harder for a family to sue a nursing home. The controversial provision would require that a third party must agree that a lawsuit was warranted before the case could move into the courtroom.
Wallace Collins, a former Norman legislator, said the so-called “tort reforms being proposed are actually court deforms.”
Gov. Mary Fallin called the Legislature into special session this week to consider legislation for tort reform provisions that were approved in 2009 but tossed out by the state Supreme Court that ruled the legislation violated the single subject rule in state law.
Longtime advocate Wes Bledsoe said that a recent study showed Oklahoma ranks No. 48 in the nation for the level of nursing home care provided. The study was done by a Florida group called Families for Better Care.
“Oklahoma represents what’s terribly wrong with nursing home care and oversight in America,” said Brian Lee, executive director of the group.
State Rep. James Lockhart, of Heavener, said nursing home staffing levels are at about 70 percent.
He said if someone is raped in their home, police are called and charges are filed. But if such an incident occurs in a nursing home or assisted living, there are few — if any — requirements that police must be notified.
About 25 people concerned about the legislation met on the south steps of the state Capitol and in a committee room where they shared stories about abuse of loved ones in nursing homes.
Chris Rich said his mother entered a south Oklahoma City nursing home about a year ago after suffering a broken hip. She also had Parkinson’s disease and other maladies. Rich said that in a couple of weeks, his mother had bed sores and bruises. The family used a mini-cam that recorded nursing home employees mistreating his mother.
Since then, the family has moved their mother to another facility.
Morrissette asked Rich the name of the nursing home where the mother was mistreated. Rich said the family had entered into a settlement with the home.
“I am under pretty much a gag order,” he said, although the data could be found in subsequent police reports about the case.