Dr. El Goes Undercover with the NYS Department of Health

Okay, so it didn’t involve a disguise, but I did make an anonymous phone call to the New York State Department of Health.

When I interviewed Mark Kissinger, their Deputy Commissioner of Long Term Care recently, he and Jacqueline Pappalardi, the Director of the Division of Residential Services, were friendly and reasonable. They said the Nursing Home Complaint hotline (888-201-4563) was open, and that in addition to taking complaints, the State was there to help facilities and staff with questions and problems that might arise. So I phoned to see if there could be a collaborative exchange with the DOH via the hotline.

I dialed *67 before the call, so my name and number wouldn’t be visible, and asked them whether or not it was against State regulations to use a cell phone in a nursing home. And guess what? They answered right away and were friendly, reasonable, and knowledgeable!
According to the hotline staff, there are no State regulations against using cell phones, but there may be a facility policy against it. There is a State regulation about using the camera function in the nursing home. The Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act (HIPAA) states that it’s a violation of a resident’s privacy to take a photo of them without their permission. A resident needs to sign a waiver to agree to a photograph by a staff member, and care should be taken to ensure that another resident isn’t in the background of the photo, in violation of their HIPAA rights. I found this to be very helpful information, delivered in a respectful, collegial manner.

4 thoughts on “Dr. El Goes Undercover with the NYS Department of Health”

  1. Dr. El,
    It is always good to know what is actually regulation and what is policy. Most policies are developed from regulation. I often wondered whether or not there was a regulation against cell phone use since many residents now have them. I, personally, do believe facilities should have policies against cell phone use. Over the years, I have seen so much abuse regarding cell phone use even though policy is against it. Staff members are being paid to take care of residents, not take care of personal business.

    I do, however, advocate the use of cell phones by residents. It gives the resident freedom to participate in the daily life of the facility without having to miss a much desired phone call from a loved one.
    Of course, this does have a down side. I just recently received a complaint from a resident regarding their peers getting calls and speaking on their cell phones during recreation programs and the disruption it causes.

  2. Sue, you're right, using a cell phone during paid work time is generally frowned upon no matter what the job, regulation, or policy! Cell phone etiquette issues are everywhere these days, apparently even in nursing home activities.


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