A group of Hawaii legislators is tired of the Health Department ignoring a state law that requires inspection reports of adult care homes and other long-term care facilities to be posted online.

Rep. Gregg Takayama, Sen. Suzanne Chun Oakland and Sen. Les Ihara — co-conveners of the Kupuna Caucus — have sent Gov. David Ige a letter calling on him to take whatever action is needed to get the department to resume posting the reports on its website and close a growing backlog.

The lawmakers reminded Ige that as a senator he voted in favor of the law in 2013, and that his support continued when he was campaigning for governor last year.

Senator Suzanne Chun Oakland fields questions during ways and means commitee meeting on REIT. 18 feb 2015. photograph Cory Lum/Civil Beat
Sen. Suzanne Chun Oakland, seen here during a legislative hearing in February, is one of the Kupuna Caucus members who wants Gov. David Ige to take action on the issue of posting care home inspections online. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

The legislation gave the department 18 months to figure out how it would comply with the law, but the Jan. 1, 2015, deadline came and went without action.

The department’s Office of Health Care Assurance, which oversees roughly 1,700 facilities statewide, eventually did an initial upload in March of about 80 inspections, but has since stopped posting the reports. Keith Ridley, who heads the office, has blamed a lack of resources.

Lawmakers in 2013 authorized two positions and $148,000 as requested by the department to meet the mandate. But no one was hired, and the appropriation was not renewed in the current two-year budget.

“The Legislature can certainly consider a new appropriation for the next budget year to create new positions in DOH as required, but the posting of reports cannot wait to see if the hires will be made,” the Kupuna Caucus letter says.

Ridley said the department has identified a position that can be used in the interim so it can start posting the reports again, and is working to hire someone to fill that job. But he said a longterm solution will still be needed.

“To reiterate why Act 213 is critical to the hundreds of families searching for placement for loved ones, it is only necessary to describe the situation prior to passage of the law, which unfortunately continues to this day,” the Kupuna Caucus letter says.

“This is now mid-October, the backlog is increasing, and the Department of Health persists in refusing to post any more inspection reports.” — Kupuna Caucus letter to Gov. Ige

“Then and now, a person suddenly faced with the need to place a spouse or relative in a long term care facility must write a letter to the Office of Health Care Assurance specifying the facilities under consideration, and then wait for a state worker to manually pull the files, redact the names, make copies, charge for the copying and notify the requestor that the information is available.

“The process may take 10 days to a couple of weeks and the family must pay for the reports,” the letter says. “The law removed this requirement and expense by providing a simple, cost effective solution to the problem that is already in effect in many other states: Inspection reports posted on the Web that may be reviewed immediately, with no delay, and at no cost to families.”

The lawmakers said waiting up to two weeks is “too slow and is unacceptable,” and that it’s also costly for the family and the state if the hospital patient refuses to move until there is some information that assures they will be transferred to a new home that is safe and has a history of providing good care.

Chun Oakland, Ihara and Takayama noted that Ige told Civil Beat in September that the issue would be resolved soon.

“This is now mid-October, the backlog is increasing, and the Department of Health persists in refusing to post any more inspection reports,” their letter says.

The Kupuna Caucus wants the department to resume posting reports and set a reasonable and firm deadline to close the backlog.

The lawmakers said at the same time, the department should post current inspection reports within the five days mandated by the law since current information is the most valuable to families needing to make rapid decisions on placement. In closing the backlog, they want the department to proceed from the most current reports working back to Jan. 1.

Read the letter below.

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