Chapter 70.124 RCW

ABUSE OF PATIENTS

Sections

70.124.010Legislative findings.
70.124.020Definitions.
70.124.030Reports of abuse or neglect.
70.124.040Reports to department or law enforcement agencyAction required.
70.124.050Investigations requiredSeeking restraining orders authorized.
70.124.060Liability of persons making reports.
70.124.070Failure to report is gross misdemeanor.
70.124.080Department reports of abused or neglected patients.
70.124.090Publicizing objectives.
70.124.100Retaliation against whistleblowers and residentsRemediesRules.

NOTES:

Persons over sixty, abuse: Chapter 74.34 RCW.


70.124.010
Legislative findings.

(1) The Washington state legislature finds and declares that a reporting system is needed to protect state hospital patients from abuse. Instances of nonaccidental injury, neglect, death, sexual abuse, and cruelty to such patients have occurred, and in the instance where such a patient is deprived of his or her right to conditions of minimal health and safety, the state is justified in emergency intervention based upon verified information. Therefore the Washington state legislature hereby provides for the reporting of such cases to the appropriate public authorities.
(2) It is the intent of the legislature that: (a) As a result of such reports, protective services shall be made available in an effort to prevent further abuses, and to safeguard the general welfare of the patients; and (b) such reports shall be maintained and disseminated with strictest regard for the privacy of the subjects of such reports and so as to safeguard against arbitrary, malicious, or erroneous information or actions.

NOTES:

FindingsPurposeSeverabilityConflict with federal requirements1999 c 176: See notes following RCW 74.34.005.



70.124.020
Definitions.

Unless the context requires otherwise, the definitions in this section apply throughout this chapter.
(1) "Court" means the superior court of the state of Washington.
(2) "Law enforcement agency" means the police department, the director of public safety, or the office of the sheriff.
(3) "Practitioner of the healing arts" or "practitioner" means a person licensed by this state to practice podiatric medicine and surgery, optometry, pharmacy, physical therapy, chiropractic, nursing, dentistry, osteopathic medicine and surgery, or medicine and surgery. The term "practitioner" includes a nurse's aide and a duly accredited Christian Science practitioner.
(4) "Department" means the state department of social and health services.
(5) "Social worker" means anyone engaged in a professional capacity during the regular course of employment in encouraging or promoting the health, welfare, support, or education of patients, or providing social services to patients, whether in an individual capacity or as an employee or agent of any public or private organization or institution.
(6) "Psychologist" means any person licensed to practice psychology under chapter 18.83 RCW, whether acting in an individual capacity or as an employee or agent of any public or private organization or institution.
(7) "Pharmacist" means any registered pharmacist under chapter 18.64 RCW, whether acting in an individual capacity or as an employee or agent of any public or private organization or institution.
(8) "Abuse or neglect" or "patient abuse or neglect" means the nonaccidental physical injury or condition, sexual abuse, or negligent treatment of a state hospital patient under circumstances which indicate that the patient's health, welfare, or safety is harmed thereby.
(9) "Negligent treatment" means an act or omission which evinces a serious disregard of consequences of such magnitude as to constitute a clear and present danger to the patient's health, welfare, or safety.
(10) "State hospital" means any hospital operated and maintained by the state for the care of the mentally ill under chapter 72.23 RCW.

NOTES:

FindingsPurposeSeverabilityConflict with federal requirements1999 c 176: See notes following RCW 74.34.005.
Short titleFindingsConstructionConflict with federal requirementsPart headings and captions not law1997 c 392: See notes following RCW 74.39A.009.
Effective date1996 c 178: See note following RCW 18.35.110.



70.124.030
Reports of abuse or neglect.

(1) When any practitioner, social worker, psychologist, pharmacist, employee of a state hospital, or employee of the department has reasonable cause to believe that a state hospital patient has suffered abuse or neglect, the person shall report such incident, or cause a report to be made, to either a law enforcement agency or to the department as provided in RCW 70.124.040.
(2) Any other person who has reasonable cause to believe that a state hospital patient has suffered abuse or neglect may report such incident to either a law enforcement agency or to the department as provided in RCW 70.124.040.
(3) The department or any law enforcement agency receiving a report of an incident of abuse or neglect involving a state hospital patient who has died or has had physical injury or injuries inflicted other than by accidental means or who has been subjected to sexual abuse shall report the incident to the proper county prosecutor for appropriate action.

NOTES:

FindingsPurposeSeverabilityConflict with federal requirements1999 c 176: See notes following RCW 74.34.005.



70.124.040
Reports to department or law enforcement agency—Action required.

(1) Where a report is required under RCW 70.124.030, an immediate oral report must be made by telephone or otherwise to either a law enforcement agency or to the department and, upon request, must be followed by a report in writing. The reports must contain the following information, if known:
(a) The name and address of the person making the report;
(b) The name and address of the state hospital patient;
(c) The name and address of the patient's relatives having responsibility for the patient;
(d) The nature and extent of the alleged injury or injuries;
(e) The nature and extent of the alleged neglect;
(f) The nature and extent of the alleged sexual abuse;
(g) Any evidence of previous injuries, including their nature and extent; and
(h) Any other information that may be helpful in establishing the cause of the patient's death, injury, or injuries, and the identity of the perpetrator or perpetrators.
(2) Each law enforcement agency receiving such a report shall, in addition to taking the action required by RCW 70.124.050, immediately relay the report to the department, and to other law enforcement agencies, including the medicaid fraud control unit of the office of the attorney general, as appropriate. For any report it receives, the department shall likewise take the required action and in addition relay the report to the appropriate law enforcement agency or agencies. The appropriate law enforcement agency or agencies must receive immediate notification when the department, upon receipt of such report, has reasonable cause to believe that a criminal act has been committed.

NOTES:

FindingsPurposeSeverabilityConflict with federal requirements1999 c 176: See notes following RCW 74.34.005.
Short titleFindingsConstructionConflict with federal requirementsPart headings and captions not law1997 c 392: See notes following RCW 74.39A.009.
ApplicationEffective date1997 c 386: See notes following RCW 13.50.010.



70.124.050
Investigations required—Seeking restraining orders authorized.

Upon the receipt of a report concerning the possible occurrence of abuse or neglect, it is the duty of the law enforcement agency and the department to commence an investigation within twenty-four hours of such receipt and, where appropriate, submit a report to the appropriate prosecuting attorney. The local prosecutor may seek a restraining order to prohibit continued patient abuse. In all cases investigated by the department a report to the complainant shall be made by the department.

NOTES:

Severability1983 1st ex.s. c 41: See note following RCW 26.09.060.



70.124.060
Liability of persons making reports.

(1) A person other than a person alleged to have committed the abuse or neglect participating in good faith in the making of a report pursuant to this chapter, or testifying as to alleged patient abuse or neglect in a judicial proceeding, is, in so doing, immune from any liability, civil or criminal, arising out of such reporting or testifying under any law of this state or its political subdivisions, and if such person is an employee of a state hospital it is an unfair practice under chapter 49.60 RCW for the employer to discharge, expel, or otherwise discriminate against the employee for such reporting activity.
(2) Conduct conforming with the reporting requirements of this chapter is not a violation of the confidential communication privilege of RCW 5.60.060 (3) or (4) or 18.83.110. Nothing in this chapter supersedes or abridges remedies provided in chapter 4.92 RCW.

NOTES:

FindingsPurposeSeverabilityConflict with federal requirements1999 c 176: See notes following RCW 74.34.005.
Severability1993 c 510: See note following RCW 49.60.010.



70.124.070
Failure to report is gross misdemeanor.

A person who is required to make or to cause to be made a report pursuant to RCW 70.124.030 or 70.124.040 and who knowingly fails to make such report or fails to cause such report to be made is guilty of a gross misdemeanor.

NOTES:

Short titleFindingsConstructionConflict with federal requirementsPart headings and captions not law1997 c 392: See notes following RCW 74.39A.009.



70.124.080
Department reports of abused or neglected patients.

The department shall forward to the appropriate state licensing authority a copy of any report received pursuant to this chapter which alleges that a person who is professionally licensed by this state has abused or neglected a patient.



70.124.090
Publicizing objectives.

In the adoption of rules under the authority of this chapter, the department shall provide for the publication and dissemination to state hospitals and state hospital employees and the posting where appropriate by state hospitals of informational, educational, or training materials calculated to aid and assist in achieving the objectives of this chapter.

NOTES:

FindingsPurposeSeverabilityConflict with federal requirements1999 c 176: See notes following RCW 74.34.005.



70.124.100
Retaliation against whistleblowers and residents—Remedies—Rules.

(1) An employee who is a whistleblower and who as a result of being a whistleblower has been subjected to workplace reprisal or retaliatory action, has the remedies provided under chapter 49.60 RCW. RCW 4.24.500 through 4.24.520, providing certain protection to persons who communicate to government agencies, apply to complaints made under this section. The identity of a whistleblower who complains, in good faith, to the department about suspected abuse, neglect, financial exploitation, or abandonment by any person in a state hospital may remain confidential if requested. The identity of the whistleblower shall subsequently remain confidential unless the department determines that the complaint was not made in good faith.
(2)(a) An attempt to discharge a resident from a state hospital or any type of discriminatory treatment of a resident by whom, or upon whose behalf, a complaint substantiated by the department has been submitted to the department or any proceeding instituted under or related to this chapter within one year of the filing of the complaint or the institution of the action, raises a rebuttable presumption that the action was in retaliation for the filing of the complaint.
(b) The presumption is rebutted by credible evidence establishing the alleged retaliatory action was initiated prior to the complaint.
(c) The presumption is rebutted by a functional assessment conducted by the department that shows that the resident's needs cannot be met by the reasonable accommodations of the facility due to the increased needs of the resident.
(3) For the purposes of this section:
(a) "Whistleblower" means a resident or employee of a state hospital or any person licensed under Title 18 RCW, who in good faith reports alleged abuse, neglect, financial exploitation, or abandonment to the department or to a law enforcement agency;
(b) "Workplace reprisal or retaliatory action" means, but is not limited to: Denial of adequate staff to perform duties; frequent staff changes; frequent and undesirable office changes; refusal to assign meaningful work; unwarranted and unsubstantiated report of misconduct under Title 18 RCW; letters of reprimand or unsatisfactory performance evaluations; demotion; denial of employment; or a supervisor or superior encouraging coworkers to behave in a hostile manner toward the whistleblower; and
(c) "Reasonable accommodation" by a facility to the needs of a prospective or current resident has the meaning given to this term under the federal Americans with disabilities act of 1990, 42 U.S.C. Sec. 12101 et seq. and other applicable federal or state antidiscrimination laws and regulations.
(4) This section does not prohibit a state hospital from exercising its authority to terminate, suspend, or discipline an employee who engages in workplace reprisal or retaliatory action against a whistleblower. The protections provided to whistleblowers under this chapter shall not prevent a state hospital from: (a) Terminating, suspending, or disciplining a whistleblower for other lawful purposes; or (b) for facilities with six or fewer residents, reducing the hours of employment or terminating employment as a result of the demonstrated inability to meet payroll requirements. The department shall determine if the facility cannot meet payroll in cases where a whistleblower has been terminated or had hours of employment reduced due to the inability of a facility to meet payroll.
(5) The department shall adopt rules to implement procedures for filing, investigation, and resolution of whistleblower complaints that are integrated with complaint procedures under this chapter.
(6) No resident who relies upon and is being provided spiritual treatment in lieu of medical treatment in accordance with the tenets and practices of a well-recognized religious denomination shall for that reason alone be considered abandoned, abused, or neglected, nor shall anything in this chapter be construed to authorize, permit, or require medical treatment contrary to the stated or clearly implied objection of such a person.
(7) The department shall adopt rules designed to discourage whistleblower complaints made in bad faith or for retaliatory purposes.

NOTES:

FindingsPurposeSeverabilityConflict with federal requirements1999 c 176: See notes following RCW 74.34.005.
Short titleFindingsConstructionConflict with federal requirementsPart headings and captions not law1997 c 392: See notes following RCW 74.39A.009.