It has often been said that one of the best aims of journalism is to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” A recent series of reports from Civil Beat’s Nathan Eagle did exactly that, and the result will soon be better public awareness of inspection results for Hawaii’s 1,600 adult care homes.

For the past two years, Nathan has been covering the state Department of Health’s efforts to post inspection reports online for the six types of adult care homes regulated by the Office of Health Care Assurance. The posts are required by a state law that took effect in mid 2013 and they should have been online starting Jan. 1 of this year.

During last fall’s gubernatorial campaign, then-candidate David Ige promised he would require compliance with the law “immediately because seniors in adult care must be ensured a safe environment when they may be entering vulnerable years.”

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Gov. Ige supported an effort to give the Department of Health more time to post adult care home inspection reports online.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

After the Office of Health Care Assurance failed to meet that deadline, the Department of Health asked lawmakers to move the compliance deadline to July 1, a move that prompted some to question whether the state agency was taking the law seriously. Surprisingly, Gov. Ige said he’d support the department’s request to push the deadline back, which was attributed to “administrative delays” and staffing issues. “Things take longer in state government that anyone expects them to,” the governor’s press secretary quoted other officials as saying.

As the only reporter consistently following the story, Nathan drew out details such as the $148,000 the department had been given to hire two staffers and purchase computer equipment to comply with the law. His coverage kept a spotlight not only on the bureaucratic foot dragging, but on the many thousands of individuals under the care of these homes throughout the state.

In testimony submitted last week to the House Committee on Health, the Department of Health reversed course, asking that a bill giving it six additional months to comply be shelved. “The department is pursuing the posting of inspection reports as required pursuant to Act 213 (SLH 2013),” the testimony reads. “the Office of Health Care Assurance (OHCA) will begin posting by early- to mid-March 2015 for inspections beginning in January 2015.”

And on Wednesday, the department began posting inspection reports for community care family foster homes and adult day care centers.

Families with loved ones currently being cared for in such facilities or who are planning for a family member’s future care will be able to take inspection reports easily into account when making critical choices, thanks to Nathan Eagle’s reporting and the renewed commitment of Gov. Ige and his Department of Health. It should be a comfort to all of us to know that when we need such information, it soon will only be a few keystrokes away.

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