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Report: Arizona Failed To Resolve Nursing Home Complaints

An Arizona legislative staff agency has found that state health officials failed to adequately investigate complaints of abuse and neglect at nursing homes statewide, a report said.

A report by the Arizona Auditor General's Office stated the state Department of Health Services could be risking the health of long-term care residents by failing to resolve complaints including unsanitary living conditions, The Arizona Republic reported Thursday. The report references complaints dating back to 2017 that remained open and unresolved in 2019.

State health officials were not immediately available to comment on the report Thursday, but criticized the findings in a written response.

The report makes "sweeping statements about public health and safety risks" and is a non-representative sample that looks at five long-term care facilities representing less than 1% of all the licenses the department regulates, department director Cara Christ said.

Christ's statements misrepresent the findings and "attempt to deflect attention from the department's failure to investigate, or timely investigate or resolve" some complaints about long-term care facilities, the Auditor General's Office said.

The agency recommended the health department develop and implement a timeframe for completing and closing complaint investigations, officials said.

"Based on estimates and similar work, the department believes an additional 44 staff and an additional $3.3 million of appropriation and GF (general fund) allocation will be needed to timely adjudicate the nearly 2,500 complaints received annually," department officials said.

The department could do a better job complying with open meeting law requirements, getting employees to disclose conflicts of interest and close gaps in data classification, risk assessment and information technology security awareness training processes, the report also found.

The department provides and coordinates public health services and programs for the state including regulating health-related occupations, childcare and healthcare facilities and operating the state hospital.

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