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Hecht revives nursing home cameras bill

January 24, 2001

Hecht revives nursing home cameras bill



By LAURA ERNDE / Staff Writer


ANNAPOLIS - A Wolfsville, Md., woman believes her father might still be alive if surveillance cameras were allowed in his nursing home.

"Mine was a tragedy that should have been prevented," Julia Hutto said Wednesday.

Hutto's father, George Hutto, fell down a flight of stairs in his wheelchair Thanksgiving Day. He died from his injuries Dec. 5.

Julia Hutto said she wishes there could have been cameras to help monitor her father.

For the second year, Del. Sue Hecht, D-Frederick/Washington, has introduced legislation to allow video cameras in nursing homes. It would be the first law of its kind in the country.

Hecht couldn't convince the House Environmental Matters Committee last year, but she's taking a new approach this year.

The technology is coming and the state needs to step up and outline the use of video cameras in nursing homes before there's a lawsuit, she said.

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"Let's not wait. We're saying 'let's be proactive here.' It's good clean legislation that can be a benchmark," she said.

Hecht appealed for support Wednesday from the Oversight Committee on Quality of Care in Nursing Homes.

She also met with the chairman of the Environmental Matters Committee to answer his questions.

Violette King, who runs Nursing Home Monitors, a nonprofit nursing home watchdog group based in Godfrey, Ill., said her group is looking for families who are willing to put cameras in nursing homes to provide a test case.

Hecht came up with the idea after she walked in on a nursing home worker yelling at her mother.

She believes the presence of a camera could prevent abuse. The cameras could be used to prove or disprove abuse allegations made by patients.

A nursing home employee who damages or tampers with surveillance equipment would face a fine of up to $2,000 and up to 90 days in jail.

Families would bear the cost of the cameras. The resident or representative guardian would have to agree to their use.

The nursing home industry has opposed the bill, saying it would hurt morale and make it even harder to find qualified workers because of invasion of privacy issues.

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