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Arizona agency failed to investigate long-term care complaints, report says

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PHOENIX — A new report says the Arizona Department of Health Services has failed to investigate some long-term care facility complaints dating back to 2017.

The Arizona Auditor General report released Friday looked at five of the state’s 147 certified facilities.

The report reviewed 33 of 34 total complaints made at those facilities in 2017 and 2018 and 37 of 172 total self-reports made at those locations in the same time frame.

Of the 70 complaints and reports reviewed, which included allegations of abuse, neglect and unsanitary conditions, 38 were still open and not investigated as of June, the report stated.

One report had gone 904 days without an investigation.

The health department responded in a letter and said it disagreed with some of the findings.

“The complaints reviewed represent roughly 0.4% of all complaints received by the department during the two-year period under evaluation,” Director Dr. Cara Christ wrote.

“Rather than articulating how the department performs across this wide range of activities to protect public health and safety and investigating and resolving complaints within its jurisdiction, the audit findings focus on this very narrow non-representative sample.”

In the report, the Office of the Auditor General called Christ’s statements “misleading” and said they “misrepresent the finding, and attempt to deflect attention from the department’s failure to investigate, or timely investigate or resolve, some long-term care facility complaints and self-reports.”

The report found that DHS also did not comply with some conflict-of-interest and open meeting requirements and had gaps in information technology security.

In total, the office offered 13 recommendations to the department, which include developing a time frame for dealing with complaints and hire staff to work full-time of resolving complaints.

The office also called on the state Legislature to consider forming a task force and working on policy to address the department’s shortcomings.

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