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Ila Swan is a remarkable Californian lady. Her persistence and dedication have resulted in the exposure of the serious problems in nursing homes across the USA.

Almost single handedly Ila collected data which showed that Nursing Homes in California were understaffed and systematically neglecting citizens, that regulatory authorities were failing to control what was happening and that politicians were beholden to nursing home chains for large political donations. Thousands of frail and elderly citizens had died prematurely and many more had suffered needlessly. She has no doubt about the causes of the problem - profit and greed.

Her efforts resulted in a US senate inquiry and in a federal government investigation which confirmed her findings. This caused states across the USA to examine what was happening to their elderly- similar problems were identified. She and her helpers have commenced a series of court actions against a number of corporate chains on behalf of the US government forcing chains to pay back the money they were paid for care they did not provide. Some of her actions have already been successful and her cases have now been taken up by the some of the eminent lawyers who took on the tobacco companies.

Click Here for more information about Ila Swan.

Amidst all of this Ila has found time to help others. She appeared on Japanese Television urging the country to reject a corporatised for profit aged care system. Commercial pressures threaten the Canadian system and Ila has written a letter to the Sun newspaper in Canada - a warning from someone who has experienced this system, and tried to do something about it. I reproduce the letter below.

Dear Editor,

Here in the US we have been keeping a watchful eye on your health care system in Canada, especially the nursing home industry. The US has a horrible, profit driven, failed system and all our citizens are suffering because of it! I would like to supply you with data on what happens in acute care hospitals and our nursing homes, here in the US.

On Feb. 25, 28 and 29 CBS National News televised the horrors that take place in US Nursing Homes, if your interested I have a video of the program, plus 25 other TV Programs about horrible nursing home care.

I was on the CBS Feb. 29th. program and a dozen other TV Programs. In Oct. 1997, I was in the Time Magazine Story, "Fatal Neglect." This past Saturday I was interviews by Tokyo TV, telling the Japanese not to let US Nursing Homes in their country unless they to, wanted to watch their loved ones neglected, abused and killed in nursing homes like the thousands of US Families are watching right now.

As mentioned in the Time Magazine, I am the one who went to all 58 Counties in California, pulling death certificates on deceased victims of nursing home care. From 1986 to 1993, in California only, I found 2,085 deaths from bedsores, 6,688 deaths from starvation 4,044 deaths from dehydration 786 deaths from fecal impaction and 9,746 deaths from urinary tract infections. If you times this count by all 52 states in the United States, then you get a birds eye view of the great killing fields in US Nursing Homes.

Our politicians won't do anything, they are receiving to much money from this industry, so they turn their heads to all the abuse and neglect. The police don't do anything because they say the nursing homes are under the Ombudsmen and the Department of Health, Licensing and Certification, so these nursing homes are getting away with murder. I have all the death certificates here in my home.

In March of 1998, my friend and neighbor called, telling me she was so sick she thought she was dying. I had to almost carry her to my car, she was so weak from vomiting. I took her to the North Bay Hospital in Fairfield California. I told them she had been aspirating for two days and running a 104 temperature. The person behind the desk asked does she have her insurance card. I told her no. She said then you will have to take her some place else. I told her I would write her a check. She said, we would have to wait until the check cleared before we could take her. The next two hospitals we went to, it was the same story.

I called my husband to let him know what was happening. My husband is a Histologist. He works with all the doctors at North Bay. He told me to take her back to North Bay and he would call a couple of his physician friends and make some arrangements. I took her back to North Bay 4 hours after I had put her in my car. They done emergency surgery that night. She had a growth in her colon that had caused a bowel blockage. The doctor told me she would have died before morning. If my husband had not intervened, she would have died. This story of no money, no health care, is played everyday across the US, with many tragic endings.

Due to a back injury from lifting my mother, who was wheel chair bound. I was put in St. Mary's Spine Center for three months. I and my sister had taken turns caring for mother for 10 years. My sister had gone on a Mormon Mission so I had no choice but to put Mom in a nursing home. We chose the newest nursing home in the area. It was beautifully decorated in side and out. It was only 4 blocks from my home. I had no preconceived ideas about nursing home care.

Almost from the beginning, the abuse and neglect was obvious. Mom lost 38 pounds within the first 6 months in the nursing home. Mom had constant bruises, skin tares, urinary tract infections, and 6 or 7 bedsores. The bedsore on her hip went to the bone and I could see her hip socket and leg bone. (I have attached pictures taken in Creekside and pictures after 8 weeks in private care.)

We moved her to Utah, when I saw the hip bedsore. The doctor in Utah told us they might have to amputate her foot because of the bedsore on the heel of her foot. When we were caring for mother, she never had bruises, skin tares, bedsores or urinary tract infections, these were an everyday occurrence in the nursing home.

We had mother on three medications: Insulin, heart medication and aspirin. Within three months at Creekside they had her on 16 different medications, including Haldol, Doral, a sleeping pill and ativan.

I constantly complained to the nursing home over-sight system, called the Department of Health, Licensing and Certification. I even called in the police on a abuse complaint when I found a hand print on mothers face. I went to the Ombudsmen, my senator, assembly member and the Health Care Financing Administration in Washington DC. No one did a thing about my complaints.

Though my advocacy I have since learned: the Department of Health, Licensing and Certification offices are corrupt. The Ombudsmen do more harm than good by giving you a false sense they are another agency to protect our mother's and father's. They have absolutely no power. They can't cite the nursing homes, they can't fine the nursing homes, nor close them down. Most of the time they don't even file a complaint with the Department of Health, Licensing and Certification because they too know it will do no good.

When my senator and assembly members took no action, I wanted to know why. I went to the office of Political Reform in Sacramento to see who was contributing to their campaigns. I found that every senator and assembly member serving on our health committees, plus our governor and our attorney general was taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from the nursing home industry in contributions.

Mother sued Creekside Convalescent and she was given the highest non-punitive ever for the State of California. Since mother's lawsuit, 14 other families have sued that nursing home and every one who sued, won. Now our politicians are trying to pass tort reform bills, limiting the amount of money a family can receive.

I will tell you, like I told Japan, DO NOT ALLOW US NURSING HOMES IN YOUR COUNTRY. Do not allow your wonderful non-profit system to be taken over by for profit hospitals and health care industries. The US is a sorry example of what happens when money is involved with your health care. The minute these for-profit companies move in, they start shoving money into your governments pockets, then they become obligated to this killer industry and your citizens will be the ones that suffer. If for profit health care is allowed in your country, it will be a terrible injustice for your citizens.

Thank you so much for standing up and speaking out for the good of your country.

Ila Swan

552 Redwood Drive

Vacaville, Ca. 95687

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This page created October 2000 by Michael Wynne