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Some families have questions about nursing home camera bill

Published: Oct. 27, 2021 at 8:40 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - A new proposal could make keeping an extra eye on your loved ones in nursing homes easier.

Senate Bill 58, called Esther’s Law, would allow families to install cameras in residents’ rooms.

But 19 Investigates found some families are against the state bill as it is written and have some questions about it.

It has been a long fight to get the bill this far for Steve Piskor.

A hidden camera caught shocking video of the abuse of his mother Esther inside a northeast Ohio nursing home back in 2009.

The evidence sent several of the aids to jail.

Piskor has been pushing for cameras to be allowed inside nursing homes ever since then.

“Without the camera, I wouldn’t have known the abuse was going on to the extent it was,” Steve Piskor said during an interview with 19 Investigates in May of 2021.

He said the pandemic made that need even more urgent.

Esther’s Law already passed the Ohio Senate earlier this year.

Nursing homes residents and their families could choose whether to install the cameras.

Phorfina Wade, a member of the local non-profit Elderly Advocates, supports the idea.

Her brother Titus lives in a Cleveland nursing home.

“If you’re in the facility, you have the right to receive the care that you need. And having a camera bill or law would give families that peace of mind of being able to check on their loved ones,” Wade said.

But she’s worried about one thing she believes is missing from the state bill--a standard form used across all facilities, allowing the installation of the cameras.

“It should be standard, so everybody knows what the rules are and there are no gray areas,” Wade said.

19 Investigates found this used to be addressed in the bill, but it was changed, leaving the details of the form up to the facility.

“There could be so many things that go wrong with that because it’s open to interpretation of everything.

The facilities could say one thing, the family could say one thing, whereas if they’re on the same page, along with the state, everyone would know what the rules are,” she said.

Wade said she would like to see the state health department or the Ohio Health Care Association create a standard form for every nursing home in the state to use when it comes to cameras.

“There’s no point in having a law on the books for this if it’s not done correctly,” she said.

“It just can’t be everyone doing what they want to do. We have to have standards for everything, and it seems like we have them for everything else but the nursing homes,” Wade said.

Nursing homes can post a sign alerting employees and guests a camera is in use in the resident’s room.

If someone tampers with one of the cameras, it would be a misdemeanor.

We reached out to State Senator Nickie Antonio (D- Lakewood), she sponsored the bill.

“This bill serves as a first step in protecting our most vulnerable Ohioans living in nursing homes by allowing their loved ones to place a camera in their room. We worked hard that the legislation be permissive, not mandatory. The forms mentioned in the bill simply serve as documentation for the institution’s records,” Sen. Antonio said in an email.

When it comes to questions about the forms, she responded:

“Once the bill is passed into law, we can address any issues that transpire down the road,” Antonio said.

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