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August 27th, 2010

A recent investigation by a Kentucky newspaper has shown the nursing home industry has given nearly $2 million to Kentucky politicians over the last decade, raising concern that the industry has used money to prevent nursing home reform. The Herald-Leader newspaper looked into nursing home industry campaign donations after earlier reports on the state’s poor track record handling nursing home abuse cases.

“We’re David up against Goliath. They obviously have the money, they give so much, and we are just so overwhelmed,” said Bernie Vonderheide, founder of Kentuckians for Nursing Home Reform.

Vonderheide and his group have been lobbying for nursing home reform for years. One of their main areas of focus has been trying to set a minimum staffing requirement based on number of residents and their care needs. However, year after year the reform bills die without receiving a committee vote.

Rep. Carl Rollins has been sympathetic to the groups purpose and has been sponsoring their proposed bills. Rollins has yet to gain success.

“I’m talking about having adequate staffing,” said Rollins. “My Lord! You would have thought I wanted to put a stake through their hearts.”

Rollins had his own run-in with nursing home neglect in which his mother-in-law’s nursing home was not properly staffed.

“We had to hire someone, a personal aide, who went in on weekends when they were particularly understaffed to make sure she was fed and cleaned and cared for,” said Rollins. “I worry about any nursing home resident who doesn’t have someone looking out for them.”

Vonderheide and Rollins said they have talked with lawmakers and have concluded that House Democratic leaders don’t want the reform bills called for a vote.


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