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Rhode Island Health
Panel Meeting for Nursing Home Regulations
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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) -- A legislative panel on Monday was to hold its first hearing in response to revelations of poor care and other problems at several nursing homes in the state. The director of the state Health Department, the state auditor and the attorney general were expected to appear before the Permanent Joint Committee on Health Care Oversight.
   Legislative leaders have also asked Auditor General Ernest Almonte to audit facilities that receive state funding and to investigate the health department's Division of Facilities Regulation. Scrutiny of nursing homes, assisted living facilities and similar institutions follows revelations about the conditions at the now defunct Hillside Health Center in Providence.
   The Health Department has been criticized for not shutting down the nursing home, despite signs it was struggling to pay its bills and patients were receiving poor care. Hillside closed after going into receivership. On Monday, a spokesman for the attorney general's office said the Medicaid Fraud and Patient Abuse unit has been investigating Hillside since before it closed in June. The spokesman, Mike Healey, would not say why Hillside was being probed, nor how the investigation came about.
   In addition to Hillside's problems, two nursing homes recently have been told they cannot admit new patients until they correct certain deficiencies. At Oakland Grove Health Care Center in Woonsocket, three staff members face criminal charges in connection with the death of a patient, 93-year-old Emma Morel. An Oakland Grove spokesman has said the freeze on new admissions is unrelated to the criminal charges, and is a result of tighter regulation by a Health Department that's now feeling public pressure. Also, admissions have been halted at the Haven Health Center in Smithfield because of serious deficiencies.
   Gov. Don Carcieri has proposed new legislation, and Lt. Gov. Charles Fogarty has organized a task force to investigate the closure of Hillside and make recommendations for improving regulations. Carcieri's bill would make nursing home owners more accountable, give the state more authority to intervene on behalf of patients and allow the state to investigate the finances of some facilities.

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