Frustrated Sponsor Pulls 'Granny-Cam' Bill

LITTLE ROCK (AP) - A bill to allow families to put cameras in the nursing home rooms of relatives, to monitor their care and treatment, has ran into opposition from the nursing home industry in a House committee.

Opponents argued that the bill, as written, would force nursing home operators to violate other patients' privacy rights that are guaranteed under federal law.

After a marathon afternoon hearing Tuesday, the sponsor pulled the proposed Willie Mae Ryan Act, known as the "granny cam" bill, from consideration before the House Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee.

"Would you please provide me the language that would make this bill acceptable, that would make nursing home residents have the right to have a camera in their room? I would accept that language," an obviously frustrated Rep. Stephen Bright, R-Maumelle, challenged the industry after nearly three hours of testimony and questions.

Randy Wyatt, director of the Arkansas Health Care Association, and other association officials were noncommittal. They were clear in what they saw wrong with the bill but had no immediate suggestions in how Bright could allay their concerns.

"Cameras in the nursing homes is not what we're opposed to," past AHCA President Jim Cooper of Melbourne said. "We're charged with protecting the rights and dignity of all our patients.

"The way this bill is written, it's impossible to protect the right to privacy of a patient that lives three doors down the hall or across the hall who comes in to visit a patient in a certain room."

The bill will remain on the committee's agenda and could be brought up again.

Bright's bill would place cameras in the rooms of nursing home residents at the discretion of family members who may have an interest in watching how their relatives are being cared for at facilities across the state. The monitoring device would be supplied by the family and would not infringe on the privacy of any roommates of those being watched.

Efforts to pass similar legislation failed in 2001 and 2003, but Bright had hoped that the story of Ryan, an 81-year-old with Alzheimer's disease who was beaten to death at the Dallas County Nursing Home in Fordyce in 2003 would provide inspire support among lawmakers this year.

Ryan's daughter, Gloria Leveritt of Morrilton, implored committee members to consider her mother's case and what can happen in a nursing home to defenseless patients. An in-room camera could provide a measure of protection, she said.

"Cameras, they're not for everbody. It's for your family, your benefit, for people who can't help themselves. They need someone to watch over them," she said.

The bill would authorize monitoring devices to be placed in individual rooms to record audio, video or both. Videos would have date and time stamps. The facilities would install and monitor devices paid for by the consenting residents or their families, and placement would require consent from a roommate.

Nursing home operators also criticized a part of the bill that would prevent nursing homes from denying admission to people on the basis of their requests for a monitoring device.