PA Health Department Says Inspection Reports Not For Court, Lobbyist Behind the Change

Robert Sachs, Esq.

There is no question that very serious problems of neglect, abuse, and inside politics currently wrack the nursing home industry. Here in Pennsylvania, the fight to protect our elderly loved ones against such negligence and corruption is very real.

Last year, the state health department posted a disclaimer that their “surveys” of nursing home compliance with safety regulations were not intended “to be evidence of compliance with any legal standard of care in third-party litigation.” In other words, inspection records were not to be used against nursing homes in court.

This type of language clearly tries to rig the system right before our eyes. In what world are state government health inspection reports not evidence of what goes on in nursing homes? Regulations and inspections were established to protect quality of care in the first place. Still, a new investigative report shows a prominent state lobbyist and state regulators to have a different agenda.

Behind the language change is Stuart Shapiro, a chief industry lobbyist and director at the Pennsylvania Health Care Association. Painting advertisements of nursing home lawsuits by a major law firm as potentially “unfair and misleading,” Shapiro worked intimately with the former health secretary to “explore…some potential solutions” to that problem. In doing so, he helped write the state department’s disclaimer to help negligent nursing homes get off the hook.

Today, families seeking the truth about the abuse and neglect of their loved ones are left with very little evidence to bring their case and get the justice they deserve. This is truly unacceptable. At the end of the day, the product of this cozy (and pricey) lobbyist-regulator relationship does not protect quality health care or serve the people of Pennsylvania. Instead, it enables nursing homes to avoid taking accountability for their actions, puts the health of residents at stake, and leaves families to bear the ultimate burden of unnecessary tragedy.

Most recently, a judge hearing a case on the matter ruled in favor of the plaintiff and against the nursing home. While this decision is very positive, it is much like a band-aid. The disclaimer (now called an ‘explainer’) remains on the website, leaving other families and their loved ones vulnerable to a long battle against bigger forces.

To learn more about this issue, visit If you suspect abuse of your loved one in a nursing home, there are very critical steps you can take to protect them. Visit the National Center on Elder Abuse to learn what you can do.

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