Nursing home residents sign 'bill of rights'

News-DemocratApril 28, 2014 

Alan Gaffner, of the Health Care Council of Illinois, speaks at Belleville Healthcare and Rehabilitation.

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About two dozen Belleville Healthcare and Rehabilitation residents listened Monday to a speech encouraging them to sign a bill of rights for nursing home patients.

"In Illinois, there are no protections for your rights living in the nursing home," said Alan Gaffner, of the Health Care Council of Illinois.

He stopped in Belleville during a seven-city tour of the state to nursing homes, where he encouraged residents to sign a proclamation of their rights in support of state legislation.

The nursing home residents bill of rights included patients' opportunity to choose where they will get their care and who will deliver that care -- as opposed to a managed-care organization making such decisions.

Robert Reynolds, 78, said he would sign the bill of rights, which will be delivered to Springfield leaders. "Year, this pretty much covers it," he said.

Victoria Mitchell, 63, said the part that was the most important to her stated: "Care delivery decisions that never trump their needs, their doctor's order or family wishes."

"Because the decisions are very crucial," said Mitchell, who is from Alton and has lived at the Belleville facility for four months. "They shouldn't trump our needs."

The papers and a banner signed by nursing home residents and staff will be given to leaders in Springfield to encourage them to pass legislation in favor of a nursing home residents' rights.

"It's very important that we help our elected officials know what you need," Gaffner said. "We want to make sure that you're protected. We want to make sure you have rights."

Illinois Senate Bill 3450, called the Nursing Home Residents' Managed Care Rights Act, was passed earlier this month by the Illinois Senate.

The bill's chief Senate sponsor is Senate Majority Leader James Clayborne, D-Belleville. Sen. William R. Haine, D-Alton, and Sen. David S. Luechtefeld, R-Okawville, are Senate co-sponsors.

The Senate passed it 42-11-3 on April 9. From the metro-east, Clayborne, Haine and Luechtefeld all voted "yes," while Sen. Kyle McCarter, R-Lebanon, voted "present."

It was referred to the Illinois House Rules Committee on April 9.

McCarter was added as a cosponsor of the bill, but later had his name taken off it.

"I understand what that bill was supposed to be, but there was never any language put in that bill to actually say what it was going to do," he said Monday via telephone.

"It was passed as a shell bill or vehicle bill, not having any idea what's going to be on it. So For that reason, I took my name off it. Once they actually put language on it to show what it is and to see if it's something I can agree with, I'll put my name on it. It's just not safe to send something from the Senate to the House with nothing on it. I do not vote for shell bills."

Contact reporter Maria Hasenstab at mhasenstab@bnd.com or 618-239-2460.

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