§ 1150 Creation of Office.
There is hereby established within the Department of Health and Social Services, Division of Administration, the Office of the Long-Term Care Ombudsperson as provided by the Older Americans Act Amendments of 1987 (P.L. 100-175).
§ 1151 Definitions.
As used in this subchapter:
(1) "Agency" means any private or public agency operating in the State, one of whose purposes is the funding, provision or regulation of health care services.
(2) "Long-term care facility" means any facility, institution, foster home, group living arrangement, adult care home or any other facility which is required to be licensed under this chapter.
(3) "Long-Term Care Ombudsperson" or "Ombudsperson" means the person designated under § 307(a)(12) of the Older Americans Act Amendments of 1987 (42 U.S.C. § 3027(a)(12)), to perform the mandated functions of the Office of the Long-Term Care Ombudsperson in the State, or the Ombudsperson's designee.
(4) "Record" means any medical, social or financial information pertaining to a resident of a long-term care facility which is maintained by any agency regulated under this chapter or Chapter 10 of this title; provided, however, that "record" shall not include criminal investigative files.
§ 1152 Purpose and duties.
The purpose of the Ombudsperson is to provide a program to advocate for and promote the adequacy of care received and the quality of life experienced by residents of long-term care facilities in Delaware. The Ombudsperson shall have the power to:
(1) Investigate and seek to resolve complaints and concerns made by or on behalf of residents of long-term care facilities in the State relating to the actions or inactions of any long-term care facility or agencies which may adversely affect the health, safety, welfare or rights of such residents;
(2) Promote the well-being and quality of life of residents of long-term care facilities;
(3) Enter into written agreements of understanding, cooperation and collaboration with other government agencies that provide funding, oversight, inspection or operation of long-term care facilities;
(4) Establish and carry out program policies and procedures for eliciting, receiving, investigating, verifying, referring and resolving residents' complaints;
(5) Receive and investigate complaints of abuse, mistreatment or neglect in accordance with subchapter III of this chapter;
(6) Promulgate rules and regulations and adopt policies to implement this subchapter; and
(7) Perform other duties as mandated by the Older Americans Act of 1965, as amended.
§ 1153 Access to facilities and patient records.
(a) The Ombudsperson shall have access to any facility or record which is relevant to the performance of the Ombudsperson's responsibilities under this subchapter, including any record otherwise rendered confidential under Delaware law; provided, however, that the Ombudsperson shall obtain the consent of any resident who is able to consent or any resident's legal agent or guardian for access to such resident's records.
(b) The Ombudsperson may initiate an investigation of any long-term care facility independent of the receipt of a specific complaint.
(c) Any state agency to which the Ombudsperson refers a complaint shall periodically advise the Ombudsperson of the status of the investigation of the complaint and notify the Ombudsperson in a timely manner of the disposition of the complaint.
(d) The Ombudsperson shall protect the confidentiality of residents' records and shall permit access to such records only in accordance with regulations of the Office of the Long-Term Care Ombudsperson.
(e) The Ombudsperson shall protect the confidentiality of files maintained by the Ombudsperson and shall permit access to such files only under conditions as the Ombudsperson, in the Ombudsperson's own sole discretion, deems appropriate.
(f) Notwithstanding any other provision of this subchapter, the Ombudsperson shall not disclose the identity of any complainant or resident unless a court orders such disclosure or the complainant or resident consents in writing to the disclosure of the complainant's or resident's identity.
§ 1154 Good faith immunity.
(a) Persons and agencies participating in an investigation under this subchapter shall be immune from civil liability arising from their good faith participation in the investigation.
(b) No long-term care facility, other entity or person shall engage in retaliation or reprisals against any person or agency due to such person or agency's participation in an investigation under this subchapter.
§ 1155 Sanctions for interference with Ombudsperson.
(a) No person, agency or long-term care facility shall wilfully interfere with the performance of the duties and exercise of the powers of the Ombudsperson provided in this subchapter.
(b) Whoever violates this subchapter shall be fined not more than $100 for the first offense and not less than $100 nor more than $1,000 for each subsequent offense. Each violation shall be considered a separate offense.
§ 1156 Jurisdiction.
(a) Justices of the Peace shall have jurisdiction over violations of this subchapter.
(b) The Superior Court shall have jurisdiction over appeals of the decisions entered pursuant to subsection (a) of this section. Such appeals shall be on the record.