That’s one small step for the Hawaii Department of Health, one giant leap for public access.
Starting Monday, inspection reports for developmentally disabled adult foster homes will be made available online for the first time.
The move comes in response to a law passed in 2013 that required the department to post the inspection reports of several types of adult care home facilities on its website starting with inspections completed after Jan. 1, 2015.
The developmentally disabled adult foster homes are one of seven types of state-licensed care facilities that fall under the new requirement, and the only one that’s come close to meeting the mandate.
Statewide there are 295 homes of this type, with each providing care for up to two people with intellectual or developmental disabilities. They are under the control of the department’s Developmentally Disabled Division, headed by Mary Brogan.
The other six types of care facilities fall under the department’s Office of Health Care Assurance, which includes adult residential care homes, assisted living facilities and community care family foster homes. There are more than 1,600 of these homes in neighborhoods throughout the state, providing long-term care for several thousand people.
The inspection reports for all of those facilities were supposed to start being posted online after the new year too, but health officials say state bureaucracy has prevented them from meeting the deadline.
The department is asking the Legislature to pass a bill this session that would push the deadline back six months and change how quickly the reports have to be posted online once completed. The law currently requires posting within five days, but the department wants it to be 30 days to give the care homes a chance to provide plans of corrective action to be included with the reports.
Funding for positions to help post the reports online won’t be available much longer.
The reports for the developmentally disabled adult foster homes will be posted within five days of inspection, Brogan said, with the first batch Monday being all of those that have been completed since Jan. 1. It’s technically a certification process, but it amounts to an annual inspection, she said.
The process involves examining residents’ records to ensure everything is up to date, any unusual incident has been documented, exams are happening as they should, lab results are included and emergency instructions are current. In this type of home, the caregiver also manages the resident’s money, so banking records are reviewed to make sure everything is accounted for.
Brogan said posting the reports online will give the public greater assurance that the division is monitoring the homes effectively for quality and doing a thorough job.
“We always have to balance because these are homes and we don’t want to place anymore burden on these caregivers,” she said. “Just managing the business side of this is really hard for them. They’re really our heroes because we couldn’t operate this kind of system without the caregivers who are doing this hard work.”
Department spokeswoman Janice Okubo said the inspection reports for the other six types of facilities are more involved, which is part of what has caused the delay.
“The other inspection reports are more complex and require more time and planning to create an accurate and sustainable system that can benefit the public through clear and well-timed posting of information,” she said. “We understand how important this information can be for residents seeking quality care for their loved ones and we support the intent of the act.”
The law appropriated $148,000 over two years to fund two full-time positions and buy the necessary computer equipment to help the department implement the online posting requirement. The positions have gone unfilled though, something health officials have blamed on the slow pace of government and the time it takes to establish the position and then recruit for it.
The funding won’t be available for much longer as it was only authorized through the end of the current fiscal year, June 30. Brogan said Gov. David Ige’s proposed budget for the next two years doesn’t include the money, so her division is preparing to meet the requirement with existing resources.
“We’d like to hire a person,” she said, noting that it took until now to even establish and clear the position.
But Brogan questioned who would want to take the job since it’s only guaranteed for the next few months.
Instead, she said, “we’re just trying to squeeze it out of our poor, overworked staff.”
The reports for the developmentally disabled adult foster homes are posted at http://www.health.hawaii.gov/ddd/ocb.