Long post. Hang in there with me. If you don't want to read it all, here's the nutshell version: report non-compliance or the governor's office can't help us.
This week felt like déjà vu as Texas Caregivers for Compromise sought help from the Office of Governor Greg Abbott with the blatant visitation non-compliance that we are seeing from many of our long-term care facilities. While I do believe HHSC has made every effort to make education and resources available to facilities, we are seeing families go days, over a week, and even over the HOLIDAYS without seeing their loved ones.
This is absolutely 100% against state law, against our newly adopted constitutional amendment, against HHSC guidelines, and against CMS guidelines. But those facility admins who believe they have the right to shut the facility off to visitors likely counted on there being nobody available over the holidays to answer phones, families being uninformed, and HHSC being too overwhelmed and short-staffed to address visitation as a high priority. And they were probably right.
The governor's chief of staff not only probably had a lot to do with that HHSC letter that went out yesterday, but he has asked HHSC to report weekly to the governor regarding non-compliance in long-term care as well as to contact non-compliant facilities by phone and verbally give them the same reminder that was sent out in writing. Also, one of the governor's policy advisors will be discussing our visitation non-compliance issues with me next week.
IT IS VERY VERY VERY IMPORTANT THAT YOU CONTACT AN OMBUDSMAN WITH VISITATION NON-COMPLIANCE ISSUES AND/OR REPORT TO COMPLAINT AND INCIDENT INTAKE. Why? Because:
(1) while HHSC has been making education efforts and been responsive to our calls and emails, visitation complaints necessarily are prioritized behind abuse and neglect complaints so there is a significant delay in response to those. HHSC cannot report what they do not know. They cannot educate a facility if we do not tell them the facility is non-compliant.
(2) those facilities that do not keep up with HHSC through Gov.Delivery or look to the HHSC portals and resources online are still uninformed because they have not seen the letter. There is no automatic letter put in snail mail or robocall to all 4000 facilities in Texas. We must tell HHSC what is going on in facilities so they know who to call and bring up-to-speed on the rules. HHSC simply will not know what we do not tell them.
(3) even though "obeying corporate" and "erring on the side of caution" are not defenses, the families who do not know any better will accept whatever facilities say until otherwise informed. As hard as Texas Caregivers for Compromise is trying to educate families, our group is only 3100 Texans and about 250 non-Texans. We are just not big enough to reach every family of every one of the 120,000 to 130,000 people living in long-term care in Texas.
While we are all reluctant to damage our relationships with our facilities, we have an obligation to the other families of residents who do not know what we know. And, your complaint CAN BE ANONYMOUS.
Please continue to be the big, loud, hard-to-miss advocacy group that we have been since July of 2020 when we began. We are Texas Caregivers for Compromise and we are #notgoingaway!