How To File A California Nursing Home Complaint Document:

How to File a California Nursing Home Complaint

When a loved one resides in a nursing home, their safety, well-being, and quality of care are a priority. Unfortunately, there may be instances when concerns arise regarding the treatment of your loved one or their living conditions within a nursing home facility.

If you suspect nursing home abuse or neglect, filing a complaint is crucial for addressing your concerns and standing up for your loved one’s rights. Understanding the complaint process can ensure you know what steps to take on behalf of your elderly relative.

When to Consider Filing a Complaint with the California Department of Public Health

If a family member, friend, or loved one was injured in a nursing home or another professional care facility in California, you can file a complaint against the nursing home with the California Department of Public Health (DPH). The DPH is responsible for investigating valid complaints against care facilities in the state that do not comply with state and federal laws for the care of residents in nursing homes.

Common reasons to file a DPH complaint on a nursing home include:

  • Abuse, neglect, or mistreatment of any kind against a resident, including wrongful chemical restraints, verbal abuse, and physical injuries
  • Unsafe living conditions, such as poor staffing hygiene, broken or poorly maintained equipment, improper temperature, or nonfunctional care equipment
  • Poor medical care, such as improper dosages, administering the wrong medication, or using inadequate substances
  • Staffing issues, such as unprofessional or insufficient staffing
  • Violation of a resident’s rights, such as privacy issues, unnecessary restrictions of freedom and autonomy, or denials of visitations.

According to the DPH’s guidelines, anyone can file a complaint about a nursing home or another healthcare provider, not just relatives. Patients, other facility residents, friends, and even anonymous members of the public can file a complaint. DPH will also maintain confidentiality and protect your identity.

Steps to Filing a California Nursing Home Complaint

If you wish to file a nursing home complaint with the DPH, take the following steps to ensure your report has the details the DPH needs. Knowing what to do after filing your complaint, such as notifying other agencies, helps ensure the proper authorities are aware of the situation.

Step 1: File Your Complaint

The DPH recommends filing a complaint against a nursing home using the agency’s online portal, the fastest and most efficient method. Visit the CDPH’s Health Facility Information Database (Health Find) and click “File a complaint” to get started.

Alternative methods to file a complaint include by phone, mail, or fax. You can find your local district office’s mailing address, telephone, and fax numbers on the dedicated CDPH page.

Regardless of the method used to file your complaint, you must provide the appropriate details and information to the DPH to process it, including:

  • Your name
  • Your contact details, including address and phone number
  • Name of the affected resident
  • Your relationship to that resident
  • The residents’ facility’s name and address
  • The date and time of each incident

Provide a detailed explanation of each incident, including when it occurred and how often. Detail how the resident was affected, such as the nature of the harm they suffered or the type of violation you believe happened. Provide the names of any involved staff members.

If you have eyewitness accounts, include their names in your complaint and concise statements. You can also include additional documents and records if they are relevant to your complaint.

If you intend to file a complaint about multiple issues or incidents, ensure you identify each one separately. For example, if you want to file a complaint to report an incident in two separate, unrelated facilities, consider giving each incident a unique name or identifier.

Step 2: Notify Additional Parties

While filing a complaint to DPH against a nursing home is essential, it is not the only action you can take to report an incident. Other agencies and organizations may have the authority to investigate your claim or provide additional support.

Organizations you might also notify include:

  • The California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform (CANHR): After filing your complaint with DPH, keep a copy and send it to CANHR as well. CANHR is a nonprofit organization that can provide you with guidance to help you navigate the complaint process. They can also recommend other steps you can take to help resolve the situation and prevent further harm.
  • Your local and state representatives: Notifying your state senator, assembly member, and local elected representatives helps ensure they are aware. They can introduce or influence potential legislative and regulatory changes to prevent further incidents of the same type. If DPH doesn’t answer your complaints, consider contacting them and urging them to take action.
  • The Division of Medi-Cal Fraud & Elder Abuse (DMFEA): The DMFEA is a branch of the California Attorney General’s Office. It has the authority to investigate elder fraud and abuse cases and can take legal action against offending individuals and entities. Report your incident to the DMFEA if it involves issues within their jurisdiction, such as Medi-Cal fraud, severe neglect, abuse, and mistreatment.

Step 3: DPH Investigation

DPH is required by law (California Health & Safety Code 1420(a)(1)) to assign an investigator to your case and send you their name and contact details within two working days of filing the complaint.

The law also requires conducting an investigation on-site within ten working days of receiving the complaint, and all nursing home investigations must be completed within sixty days. If the circumstances require it, subsection (a)(5) of the same law allows CDPH to extend the investigation time by another sixty days.

Although you are not required to, contacting this investigator is recommended. Speak with them and discuss the details of your complaint to ensure they are familiar with the incident ahead of the planned investigation.

As a complainant, you are entitled by the state of California to specific rights during an active DPH investigation:

  • Right to be free from retaliation: Section 1432 of the California Health & Safety Code protects any individual cooperating in an investigation against retaliation from the facility. If you are a resident, patient, or employee and DPH finds the facility discriminates against you for cooperating, they can issue a fine of up to $10,000 to the facility.
  • Right to anonymity: Subsection (h) of Section 1432 grants you the right to remain anonymous if you specifically request to do so in your complaint. However, anonymity can make it more challenging for DPH to substantiate your claims.
  • Right to a response: DPH must issue a written notification of its findings upon completing its investigation.

Step 4: Request an Appeal if Necessary

If you are not satisfied with the results of a DPH investigation, the law allows you to appeal and request an informal conference. To do so, you must write to the DPH’s district office manager within thirty days of receiving the investigation findings.

The agency will schedule an appeals conference within thirty days of receiving your request and issue you a written notification of its date and time within ten days.
During the conference, you will meet the district office manager. Due to CDPH being required to notify you and the facility, you may also meet the nursing home’s director or administrator. You have the right to bring an attorney during the appeals conference.

If you aren’t satisfied with the results of the informal appeals conference, you may contact the CDPH Deputy Director within fifteen days of the appeals conference to request further review. CDPH’s Complainant Appeals Unit will finalize your case within thirty days, after which no further appeals are available.

Step 5: Follow-Up and Advocate for Your Loved One

If the appeals process did not resolve the situation or DPH ignores your appeal request, contact a nursing home abuse lawyer as soon as possible. They will provide guidance and legal counsel to help you follow up with the agency and advocate for your loved one’s rights.

How Nursing Home Abuse Lawyers Can Help

Seeking counsel from skilled nursing home lawyers can help you report nursing home abuse, file a thorough complaint with DPH, and protect your loved one’s rights and interests.

Our attorneys at Berberian Ain LLP can provide specialized legal advice and guidance, help you investigate the abuse your loved one has suffered, and gather all relevant evidence. We can also contact witnesses on your behalf, collect documentation, and assist you in drafting and filing your complaint.

Our team of nursing home abuse lawyers has the resources and expertise to negotiate with the care facility or represent your loved one in a court of law. We will work with you to protect their rights and well-being and, if needed, obtain a settlement or compensation.

Receive Legal Guidance When Filing Your Nursing Home Complaint

If you or a loved one has been abused, neglected, or suffered rights violations as a resident of a California nursing home, contact the law offices of Berberian Ain LLP today. Our team will help you file a formal complaint with CDPH and protect your loved one’s rights before, during, and after the investigation.