Despite some privacy concerns, a bill that would require adult care facilities to allow residents to install video cameras in their rooms found support in the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee.
Advocates say the measure would help keep residents and their property safe.
Senate Bill 456 would require adult care facilities in the state to allow residents or their guardians to set up electronic monitoring systems in the residents’ rooms with a few caveats.
The resident or guardian would be responsible for all purchase and setup costs associated with the device. Notice of the recording device would have to be placed at the door of the room, and the resident or guardian would be civilly liable for any violation of another person’s privacy rights. Any roommate of the resident would have to consent to the monitoring.
According to the Pew Charitable Trusts, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and Washington have passed bills regarding electronic monitoring. Maryland has a law allowing residents to place cameras with the facility’s permission. A similar law took effect in January in Illinois.
Janie Carney, a Wichita resident who testified in support of the bill, said she spoke on behalf of those who couldn’t speak for themselves, including a loved one named Frank with memory issues whom she helped sign into a care facility.
She said she asked to set up a camera when she signed Frank into the Wichita facility. The request was denied on the grounds of privacy of other residents. She said Frank did not get adequate attention from staff, even though she spent thousands of dollars a month on his care.
“When I would walk into Frank’s room in the morning and see how it had been methodically disassembled throughout the night, sometimes with things broken, my mind could only imagine how long he had been left all alone, in a state of frightful confusion,” she said.
She said she knew of other residents with injuries that were undiscovered for hours because no one had been by to check on them patient. A monitoring system, she said, would ensure the quality care she was promised.
Opponents had some concerns about specific language in the bill but said they supported its premise.
One concern was the cost. Mitzi McFatrich, who testified against the bill on behalf of Kansas Advocates for Better Care, said the cost of equipment would be out of reach for the 10,000 people whose nursing home care is covered through Medicaid.
She also had concerns about a portion of the bill that makes the resident or guardian civilly liable for violating others’ privacy rights, saying it was too broad and could include members of the staff or vendors. The bill also didn’t outline a penalty for destroying the device, which she said is a felony in another state with an electronic monitoring law.
Rachel Monger, director of government affairs for LeadingAge Kansas, the state association for not-for-profit aging services, said the bill didn’t go as far as the Texas law on which it was based. She encouraged provisions for safe installation and making sure the facility doesn’t play “musical chairs” to find roommates who consent to monitoring.
Monger said the bill also should require those monitoring the room to report any abuse they saw. Failure to do so would be a misdemeanor, she said.
Barbara Hickert, with the Kansas Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program, took issue in written testimony with the requirement to post notice of a camera outside a resident’s room. Knowledge of whether the room had a camera, her testimony said, would leave residents without monitoring devices vulnerable to abuse.
According to her testimony, the bill also should require a physician’s determination that residents can’t make the decision themselves before allowing guardians to begin monitoring the room.
The bill awaits further action by the committee.