Oklahoma woman fighting for nursing home reform

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Updated: 2/25 5:34 pm Published: 2/25 11:28 am

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. - An Oklahoma City woman says she nearly died in two Oklahoma nursing homes and today, Fern Horton took her message of nursing home reform to the state Capitol.

FOX2323 news has told you for the past month about Horton, the 86-year-old woman fighting for change, and why she says Oklahoma should be doing more to protect elderly people in nursing homes.

Horton was in Oklahoma City today, going after lawmakers over the House committee on Long Term Care and Senior Services’ refusal to hear the bill.

“I am terribly upset about it. Once you go into a nursing home, the U.S. Constitution doesn’t apply to you,” said Horton.

She experienced it firsthand, the abuse and neglect in two nursing homes she stayed in after a surgery.

“Why are Oklahomans allowing it?” she asked.

And she let Rep. David Dank, who chairs the committee; know she’s ready for a fight.

“I don’t see the humanity in Dank,” she said.

“All the senior groups who I’ve talked to out here do not support this bill in its present form,” said Dank.

Groups like AARP, he said.

But Wes Bledsoe, who founded A Perfect Cause to help improve conditions in nursing homes, said that’s part of the problem.

“Here we are with a bill that would protect our loved ones, it would save lives. And yet, the bill’s being denied a hearing in public?” he said.

“This isn’t a political football. These are human lives. As I said, what does the body count have to get to?” Horton asked.

According to A Perfect Cause, a nonprofit dedicated to improving conditions in nursing homes, roughly 3,500 people die in nursing homes and long-term care facilities in Oklahoma every year.

“Why does it take legislation, a statute for common sense? For humanity to treat people like they’re human beings instead of a stone or a brick?” asked Horton.

But Horton and leaders with the group said this is a bill that would require more staff at nursing homes and long -term care facilities and more oversight over that staff.

It would make it easier to investigate claims of misconduct and abuse and hold the facilities more accountable.

Bledsoe thinks it is groups and companies representing nursing homes that are standing in the way.

“I don’t know what the influence is this industry has over state officials. But there’s obviously a lot of influence this industry has over state regulatory officials.”

Dank told FOX23 that’s not the case.

“I wanna do it, but I wanna do it right. I don’t wanna help some, but hurt others,” he said.

Dank said he’s all for reforming nursing homes and stopping abuse, but he said it’s a big effort that will take time.

“We’re gonna do an interim study, we’re gonna call in all sides, and we’re gonna do it right,” said Dank.

But Horton said she will continue fighting until that actually happens.

“Till the day I die. It isn’t just until the bill gets passed. It’s got to be acted on,” said Horton.

Dank said he plans to use the interim study to improve the bill and he hopes it can be brought back up next legislative session

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