The state department tasked with regulating Oklahoma's nursing homes is failing to ensure the safety of those who live within them, an advocate for reform said Thursday.
On the lawn of the state Health Department, flanked by the daughters of a 96-year-old woman who was physically abused by two Oklahoma City nursing home aides last year, Wes Bledsoe said the department should amp up its inspections and investigations process immediately.
“If we had the OSU and OU football teams ranking as low as this in the NCAA, the presidents of the universities as well as the coaches would be fired, so maybe we need to be firing the people who are running these agencies,” he said.
Eryetha Mayberry sat in a wheelchair and suffered from dementia when two nurses aides at Quail Creek Nursing Home and Rehabilitation Center were arrested on abuse complaints last April.
Mayberry's daughters set up a hidden video camera after they noticed some of their mom's personal items missing. But instead of catching a thief, the tape revealed two women pushing the women's mother and gagging her with gloved hands.
One of the women, Lucy Gakunga, 24, is now serving a prison sentence at Mabel Bassett Correctional Center in McLoud. Her co-defendant, Caroline Kaseke, 29, has not been convicted and remains at large.
Bledsoe said it is unconscionable that the state Health Department is not investigating the nursing home and said it reflects the department's attitude about this type of abuse.
He said the department cited only six of the state's 300-plus nursing homes for failing to protect residents from abuse in the past 31/2 years, despite 57 such citations in the 31/2 years before that.
“That, to me, is scandalous,” Bledsoe said.
But Dorya Huser, chief of the department's Long Term Care Service, said Bledsoe does not understand how these investigations work.
The state investigated more than 1,240 complaints at nursing homes last year alone, and cited 1,000 of them for deficiencies, Huser said.
Twenty citations have been issued against nursing homes since May 2009 for failure to protect residents from abuse.