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Group calls for nursing home task force

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - A group that advocates for nursing home
reforms has asked the governor to appoint a task force to review
why more abuse and death cases aren't prosecuted.

Kentuckians for Nursing Home Reform founder Bernie Vonderheide
told the Lexington Herald-Leader he made the request after stories
in the newspaper showed few citations were prosecuted as crimes
over a three year period. The report said in that time period,
there were 107 citations noting serious incidents that might have
caused injury or death and seven were prosecuted by state or local
officials.

Kerri Richardson, a spokeswoman for Gov. Steve Beshear, said
Vonderheide's request is being reviewed.

The state sends the most serious nursing home regulatory
violations to the attorney general's office, which can prosecute
only if the local prosecutor agrees.

Allison Martin, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Jack Conway,
said the office has put a priority on investigating cases of
nursing home abuse and neglect.

"Our office has already reached out to the Cabinet for Health
and Family Services to ensure that we are receiving citations in a
timely fashion and about how processes can be improved to make
these referrals more efficient and effective," she said in a
statement.

Of the 107 cases reviewed by the newspaper, eight are still
being reviewed by local prosecutors or the attorney general's
Office of Medicaid Fraud and Abuse Control and have been pending
for an average of 19 months.

The Cabinet for Health and Family Services, which issues
citations, said it is also reviewing Vonderheide's request.

Some lawmakers said they would support the formation of a task
force.

"I think we need to take action against the abuse and I do hope
the governor appoints a task force," state Rep. Carl Rollins,
D-Midway, said.

"Without a doubt we have a serious problem here," said state
Sen. Tom Buford, R-Nicholasville.

Buford said the newspaper's finding that so few cases were
prosecuted "disappoints me, but it doesn't surprise me given the
extensive lobbying that has been done to prevent the legislature
from delving into it and possibly stiffening up the penalties."
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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