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Oklahoma State Department of Health

Press Update

DATE: May 19, 2000
CONTACT: Peggy Wiebener
405/620-6476

OKLAHOMA CITY--Jerry Regier. Acting Director of the State Health Department, announced today the formation of the "Integrity Task Force." The task force, after completing an intensive, two day training session, will be dispatched immediately to conduct field investigations resulting from previously filed complaints.

Members of the task force are nurses from 30 county health departments, as well as Oklahoma City and Tulsa City/County Health Departments, who have volunteered to assist Regier in bringing an end to the backlog. The 50 member force will come together, Monday and Tuesday, to receive Federal Health Care Finance Authority (HCFA) approved Complaint Investigation Essentials training. The team will then be mobilized throughout the state to investigate the approximately 450 complaints from 201 facilities in 50 counties.

"This is an emergency situation that requires immediate action." states Regier. "I want to help the public understand that these complaints are calls the Department receives from family members, friends, workers in facilities, and other interested parties who have concerns about the care of the residents in the facilities. The complaints are catagorized by severity. The immediate jeopardy and actual harm calls are investigated within 10 days. The backlog is comprised of the less severe complaints." Said Regier.

The complaint investigations are different from the surveys that have been in the media recently. An investigation occurs when a complaint is called into the office or to the hot line. While a survey is a requirement of the Federal Health Care Finance Authority. Each facility is surveyed on an interval, determined by this office, but must fall between nine and 15 months.

Regier concluded, "I appreciate all the Health Department staff who have volunteered for the 'Integrity Task Force'. Our mission is to restore integrity to the complaint process while also assuring the family members of the health and safety of the elderly nursing home residents of the States."

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