Long-Term Care Ombudsmen Are Missing In Arizona. This Organization Is Trying To Find Out Why
Long-term care ombudsmen serve as advocates for people living in Arizona nursing homes who may not have family or friends to be their voice. But where were they during the pandemic, when nursing homes were locked down? It’s a question one organization set out to answer.
The Hertel Report is a newsletter that covers Arizona's health care industry. Last September, they wanted to know if the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program, which falls under the Department of Economic Security, was busier than usual given the visitor restrictions.
"We were expecting to write an article about, you know, demand is up 25% and these ombudsmen are scurrying all over the place and they're trying to help folks get visits with their families or they're trying to help folks get transfers," explained Jim Hammond, report’s publisher. "And we couldn't find anything."
He says phone calls were not returned, and the data and documentation they did obtain was murky.
"So it turned into a story about a lack of transparency and accountability, instead of a story about how ombudsmen are helping patients," he said.
"We cover health care all the time, and doctors and hospitals are all under pressure, all the time to document what they're doing, and to have complete transparency in their charting. And we think the same should be true with a governmental agency that takes in money from different sources."
Hammond says they’ll continue to dig and they’re starting to get more information. But ombudsmen have largely been missing nationwide this past year.
Jocelyn Bogdan is a program and policy specialist at the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care.
"So for a very long time during the pandemic, they were shut out," she said. "They were not able to get into the facilities."
That’s because ombudsmen don’t have an elevated status, she said. Which means they’re subject to the same restrictions as family visitors.