LaSata bill strengthens ombudsman ability to investigate long-term care facilities

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Kim LaSata on Tuesday introduced legislation that would require long-term care facilities to allow the state’s Long Term Care Ombudsman to conduct investigations even if facilities have visiting restrictions in place.

“The extreme COVID-19 restrictions over the past year that prevented people from visiting their loved ones in long-term care facilities also concealed harrowing conditions and incidents that should have been investigated — and could have — had the ombudsman been allowed entry,” said LaSata, R-Bainbridge Township. “I’ve worked closely with the ombudsman’s office in the development of this bill and am confident it will help ensure vulnerable people living in long-term care facilities receive the quality care they deserve.”

Senate Bill 213 would allow the ombudsman or a representative to enter a facility for an investigation without restriction if a facility’s visitor restriction lasts longer than seven days. For restrictions shorter than seven days, the facility would have to make a good faith effort to facilitate a virtual visit.

The bill would align Michigan law with federal regulations to allow the same access hours for the ombudsman and representatives and access to residents’ guardian contact information.

“I appreciate Sen. LaSata proposing updates to the Older Michiganians’ Act to ensure that long term care ombudsmen have timely access to residents during a pandemic like the one we have experienced for a year now” said State Long Term Care Ombudsman Salli Pung. “Nationwide, and in Michigan, complaints to ombudsman programs have dropped considerably during the pandemic due to ombudsmen not being able to conduct in-person visits with residents to discuss concerns. This proposed legislation allows for in-person visits to not be suspended or restricted longer than necessary to protect and advocate for those we serve.”

The bill was referred to the Senate Health Policy and Human Services Committee.