Covering Kentucky

Mar 7, 2013 6:05 PM by Josh Breslow

Controversial Nursing Home Bill Upsets Abuse Victim's Family

Families who have dealt with nursing home abuse say a piece of Kentucky legislation known as Senate Bill 9 is just more "red tape."

In 2008, a hidden camera inside Richmond's Madison Manor Nursing Home captured disturbing video. An aide walks into the room of Armeda Thomas, tray of food in hand, but eats the meal herself. On another day, employees appear to taunt the 84-year-old resident.

"I mean, it's the worst thing a family can go through," said Thomas's granddaughter, Deb Hamilton who set up the recording device when she suspected the elderly woman was being mistreated.

Three nursing home employees were eventually charged in the case and Thomas's family filed a civil suit.

"It's not a simple thing to do, so why would we want to create and introduce something that makes it even more difficult? It just, it makes no sense," said Hamilton.

It's no surprise that Hamilton is firmly against Senate Bill 9, which would require Kentucky families who plan to sue nursing homes to first go before a three-member medical review panel to investigate the claim.

"It allows for the health care industry to get rid of any kind of frivolous lawsuits by having a panel established and having a kind of first hearing," said Representative Julie Adams, a Republican from District 32, who supports the legislation.

Opponents disagree with Representative Adams, claiming the bill was designed by nursing homes to get complaints dropped.

The legislation would also mean families who prove their case could have to pay for the panel's travel, lodging, food, and time.

"To me, it puts a huge barrier in place for families who are already probably facing difficult times," Hamilton said.

Hamilton worries other families facing similar situations might choose not to file suit and she hopes it's just a matter of time until Senate Bill 9 is struck down.

The bill has already been approved by the Senate and next goes to the House.

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