Published 9:07 am Thursday, January 9, 2014

WINTON – After a less than glowing annual report on the Hertford County Nursing Home/Adult Care Community Advisory Committee made in October, the Hertford County Board of Commissioners made the committee a spirited topic of discussion at their first regular meeting of 2014.

These committees, located in all 100 counties and authorized by the North Carolina General Assembly, are to work to maintain the intent of the Adult Care Resident’s Bill of Rights within licensed adult care facilities in the state.

Hertford County has a joint committee, meaning they visit the 11 family care homes, three adult care homes and the single nursing home located within the county.

The October report stated that not all these homes in the county were served by the committee for various reasons; among them, member health issues and scheduling conflicts.

The state has an ombudsman program that consists of individuals at the state and local levels work with facility residents, family members, concerned citizens, the facilities, as well as public and private agencies to enhance the quality of care and of life for residents in long term care facilities. The State Ombudsman is located within the North Carolina Division of Aging in Raleigh.

At the commissioner’s meeting, County Manager Loria Williams pointed out that some facilities require one annual visit, while others need to be visited three times a year. She mentioned that some facility residents had contacted Board members voicing their concerns over the lack of visitations.

Commissioner Ronald Gatling broached the idea that perhaps there needs to be changes in the committee membership.

“To me it’s simple,” said Gatling. “We’re talking about our citizens that need care and if you look at the concerns in the report, we need to do something.”

A list of 13 concerns were indicated in the report, including care plans, noises at facilities during evening hours, cold food, cluttered hallways, and unlocked or unattended medication carts.

“If it means abandoning this committee and appointing somebody then that’s what we need to do,” Gatling continued. “But we cannot continue to allow these issues to continue.”

Commissioner Howard Hunter III suggested a record of meeting attendance for advisory committee members and replace the ones that are not active.

“I wouldn’t just disband the board,” Hunter said, “but just replace those (who have been ineffective).”

Gatling further suggested a re-application process for advisory committee members.

“If you keep putting the same people back, you’re going to get the same thing,” Gatling stated. “Some members have been here since 1983; and if they do re-apply, they need to tell us why, because they ain’t been serving.”

The report was originally brought to the Board’s attention by Commissioner Johnny Farmer two months ago.

“When I read this report that came from the Mideast Commission’s Ombudsman I was shocked,” said Farmer.

Farmer, who serves on a state committee on adult care, stated that training is offered to local county advisory committees, but he was unaware that any of the Hertford County committee members had attended training.

“I think we need to do something,” Farmer added. “I don’t know if you want to take the drastic matter of dissolving the advisory committee or if you want to send them a letter on how to do the job, or if you want them resigning,” he suggested.

Williams did point out there are active advisory committee members who do participate in the process. While Williams said she felt attendance was important, she noted there is no compensation to the advisory committee for providing the service.

“Gas is gas these days,” Williams said. “We can’t know if people are not doing what they’re supposed to do.”

Williams said there must be something in the regulations of the board that speaks to non-attendance, but because of statutory issues, a close look needs to be taken regarding removal issues.

Both Williams and County Attorney Charles Revelle said they were unaware of removal provisions mandated by the state so these could possibly be executed on the local or county level.

Board Chairman William Mitchell agreed with the discussion that these are relevant issues the Commissioners need to address.

“I feel like those that are participating and have been participating should not be held to a level of disbanding them; but those that have not been participating we need to take some action on,” Mitchell said.

Williams said she did not have an attendance record for the advisory committee at the present time, but hoped the Mideast Commission Ombudsman had kept one, and if so she would present it at the next Commission meeting on Jan. 21.

She also said she would also speak to the question of compensation along with committee membership.

Mitchell said whatever action the Commissioner’s take regarding the advisory committee tenure it would be done at the next Board of Commissioner’s meeting.