Rep. Brad Carson asks for Congressional probe into Oklahoma's nursing homes

Friday, February 16th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- U.S. Rep. Brad Carson has asked a House committee to begin a probe into Oklahoma's scandal-plagued nursing home industry.

Carson, D-Claremore, requested the investigation by the Committee on Government Reform.

The probe is expected to last six to eight weeks and focus on whether violations of federal standards are widespread.

Carson is scheduled to announce the investigation at a press conference Friday in Tulsa, but a spokesman said the committee has already sought records from the Oklahoma Health Department.

"I told the people of my district that if I got to Washington, I would immediately start looking into how we can stop this callous indifference to quality of care for those seniors at the end of their life," the Oklahoma Democrat said in remarks prepared for the announcement.

Besides reviewing violations of state and federal quality-of-care standards that could have caused harm to residents, the investigation also is expected to compile a historical record of those nursing homes that have had multiple or repeat violations.

He said if the report indicates that further investigations are needed, the committee is prepared to look further into the quality of nursing home care in the state.

The Committee on Government Reform, headed by Indiana Republican Dan Burton, is the same one that last week began looking at former President Clinton's pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich.

Carson said the lack of quality care in nursing homes is a nationwide problem.

"I intend to make this not the last but instead only the first step in a personal crusade to make sure we take better care of those loved ones when they are at the last stages of their lives,"

his remarks said.

During the last Congress, a similar study requested by Rep. Lois Capps found that 27 nursing homes in the California Democrat's district failed to meet at least one federal standard for adequate care.

The state Health Department began conducting an extensive investigation into Oklahoma's nursing homes shortly after former agency official Brent VanMeter and nursing home owner Jim Smart were arrested on bribery complaints May 2. Both were convicted and are in prison.

Five alleged "ghost employees" at the Department of Health have been charged with being paid for doing little or no work.