“I have never failed to investigate a complaint of abuse or neglect in a facility,” Huser said.
She said the state never opened an investigation into Quail Creek because facility directors responded immediately to the allegations. They detained the aides, called the police, investigated the incident and promptly notified the Health Department, Huser said.
“No one is happy that incident occurred, not even the facility,” she said. “We would be looking at whether or not the facility has reason to suspect something was going to occur and if they violated state or federal law. But long-term care does not do criminal investigations.”
She said Quail Creek has no history of abuse patterns and neither of the aides had a criminal record.
That said, there is plenty of room for the department to improve its standards of inspections and investigations, Huser said.
A recent investigation by the nonprofit group ProPublica found more than a third of Oklahoma nursing homes have been cited for serious deficiencies in the past, and the state ranks eighth in terms of serious deficiencies per nursing home.
Huser said part of the problem is turnover for surveyors.
Eighteen of 80 surveyors on staff are currently in training, and the department has room for 12 more, she said.
Bledsoe called on state legislators to approve quickly Senate Bill 587, which would allow nursing home residents and their families to install video recorders in their rooms.
He also asked for legislators to reconsider a separate bill, Senate Bill 629. If passed, it would include the state's seven veterans' centers under the Health Department's purview.
“If this is the kind of oversight public health is going to provide, then we need to be looking at other solutions,” he said.