Ohio House of Representatives Considers New Nursing Home Camera Monitoring Laws

In November, 2013, the Ohio Hose of Representatives will vote on a new bill that offers nursing home patients the ability to set up hidden cameras and monitoring devices to ensure proper level of care. The bill, House Bill 298, is pushed by individuals who believe that extra measures are necessary to protect the health of vulnerable seniors in nursing homes. Those against the bill express concerns about the privacy of patients and nursing home staff.

State Representative Mike Duffy, co-sponsor of the bill, stated that he proposed the legislation after the results of the investigation of a Zanesville, Ohio nursing home. In June, 2013, authorities used hidden cameras and other monitoring devices to check on reports of abuse from several patients. The investigation was ordered by the Attorney General Healthcare Fraud Section. After a few weeks of video monitoring, it was uncovered that nursing home staff was abusing patients in multiple ways, including falsified documents, violations in infection control, treatment and care, food and nutrition, and resident rights. The Zanesville nursing home was closed as a result of this investigation. (June, 2013 https://www.nbc4i.com/story/22522602/zanesville-nursing-home-accused-of-patient-neglect-license-revoked)

Existing Nursing Home Monitoring Laws

Current Ohio law does allow for video monitoring in patient rooms. However, the video monitoring system can only be installed if one party agrees to it. House Bill 298 is designed to allow nursing home patients who might not be able to consent to video monitoring the ability to protect their rights. Family members would also be able to install the monitoring devices under the new law.

An Increase in Ohio Nursing Home Neglect

The amount of Ohio nursing home abuse has risen by almost double since 2012. By August of 2013, the Ohio Attorney General Medical Fraud Control Unit had already received over 131 complaints of nursing home abuse. Because of the rise in abuse cases, the attorney general has stated that the office plans to take an “aggressive” stance against nursing home neglect and abuse.

Signs of Nursing Home Abuse

Family members can watch out for signs of neglect and abuse without the use of video cameras. The Attorney General states that factors like strange bruises, pressure ulcers (or bed sores), unexplained injuries, dehydration, and a change in personality can all be signs of abuse or neglect. According to the Program Director and Chairperson for the Scioto County Elder Abuse Task Force, “They (nursing home staff) have to be feeding the residents, giving them enough fluids, making sure they are turned every two hours.” (August, 2013 https://www.portsmouth-dailytimes.com/view/full_story/23027308/article-Dewine-warms-of-elderly-abuse?instance=popular)

Nursing Home Camera Laws in Other States

A handful of other states already have existing nursing home camera laws. Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Texas have laws in place that protect a patient’s right to install monitoring equipment in his or her room. In Massachusetts and Florida, pilot programs are currently in use for approved video-monitoring in nursing homes across the state. These states believe that allowing video monitoring is a simple and effective way to protect the rights of nursing home patients. (November, 2013 https://www.cleveland.com/open/index.ssf/2013/10/new_legislation_would_guarante.html)