Politics is often a sickening business. A place where honesty, ethics, the public interest and conscience take a back seat to money, expediency, self-interest and cowardice. Money talks in politics – it is the fuel that drives it. And individual career interests are almost always the hands on the steering wheel, directing where something a given bill ends up. The realistic know this in the present; the idealistic will in the future.
But when the effort that is scuttled is a bill that would have increased the financial penalties that the state could slap scofflaw Massachusetts nursing home operators with – thus abandoning the weakest and most vulnerable members of the public – that is beyond sickening. You see, the Massachusetts Legislature seemed all set – in both the House and Senate – to include an amendment to the annual state budget, that would have empowered the state to do just that. The amendment was drafted and admirably lobbied for by state Sen. Mark Montigny of New Bedford. As a Massachusetts nursing home abuse attorney, I can assure you that he is to be hailed for that effort.
When Sen. Montigny attached the amendment a few months ago, appropriately named “Preventing Patient Abuse in Nursing Homes,” no one on Beacon Hill openly opposed it. Strategically, this is how it works – because any elected (or even appointed) official opposing such a laudable measure probably wouldn’t last too long in public life. But there were those in the legislature who opposed it – lurkign behind the scenes. They just kept their mouths shut until the “right time,” when they would act on behalf of their moneyed masters, otherwise known as nursing home lobbyists.
Sen. Montigny introduced this amendment largely due to the yeoman’s work by Boston Globe Health Reporter Kay Lazar, who wrote a disturbing series of reports over last winter detailing how many nursing homes in Massachusetts were in flagrant violation of many state laws and regulations mandating minimum health and safety standards in nursing homes. These documented violations exposed in shocking detail how many Massachusetts nursing home patients were left alone and unattended for hours, while they urinated and defecated on themselves. The series described patients left hungry, allowed to fall and injure themselves, were drugged unnecessarily, and were kept in squalid conditions.
Prospects for positive changes to fix this cruelty were put in motion. But don’t always believe everything you see. I’ll explain what that means in Part Two of this post, in a few days. Look for it. Because whether it’s an elderly loved who needs nursing home care today, or perhaps yourself in the future, what happened here is something you need to know about;