JEFFERSON CITY _ Nursing home workers and relatives of nursing home patients staged a protest against the nursing home industry at a recent (Oct 12) rally outside the Missouri Capitol.
The protest was organized by the union local that represents Missouri's nursing home workers.
Speaking to a group of about 20, the local's lobbyist, Brian Treece, charged nursing homes are violating a state law requiring the homes to release internal quality-assurance reports.
Treece said nine different nursing homes across the state had refused their requests for the reports.
To prove the point, Treece along with senior-citizen activists drove to a nearby nursing home in Jefferson City to demand the home's quality-assurance study report.
"We'd like to comply with the law," responded Jim Petrus, administrator for the Lincoln Nursing Center.
But then Petrus read a statement citing patient confidentiality as the reason why the report wasn't readily available.
"To assure the rights of our patients," Petrus said, "we must make sure that their privacy is maintained in any information we provide." He told Treece that he would mail the report after the nursing home deleted the confidential patient information.
At issue is a recently enacted state law requires nursing homes that make advertising claims about the quality of their care to provide internal reports on the facts about those claims - termed quality-assurance reports.
A nursing home covered by the law is required to provide such a report to any potential consumer or person representing a consumer.
Nursing home companies have complained that the law places an excessive burden on them and are challenging the constitutionality of the law in court. Treece said the companies don't have a case, but added "it's too early to predict" the outcome of the lawsuit.
Nursing home companies refused requests for interviews. Beverly Enterprises, which operates 35 nursing homes in Missouri, did issue a one-paragraph statement in which the company agreed to release the quality-assurance reports - but only by mail with personal-identification information deleted.
Participants in the nursing-home protest criticized the for-profit nursing home chains for challenging the disclosure law.
Judy Pickett, whose 80-year-old father died three weeks after being admitted to a nursing home in St. Louis County said the bill is necessary.
"They (the nursing home) caused my father's death," Pickett said. She showed graphic photographs of bed sores on her father's body after he was admitted to the hospital in 1993.
"I needed more information about that home before deciding to put my father there," Pickett said.
Asked Richard Korte, an elderly participant at the protest, "At what point isn't life sacred?"