143B-181.20. State/Regional Long-Term Care Ombudsman; authority to enter; cooperation of government agencies; communication with residents.

(a) The State and Regional Ombudsman may enter any long-term care facility at any time during regular visiting hours or at any other time when access may be required by the circumstances to be investigated, and may have access to any resident in the pursuit of his function. The Ombudsman may communicate privately and confidentially with residents of the facility individually or in groups. The Ombudsman shall have access to the resident's files, records, and other information as permitted under the Older Americans Act of 1965, as amended, 42 U.S.C. 3001 et seq., and regulations promulgated thereunder, and under procedures established by the State Ombudsman pursuant to G.S. 143B-181.18(6). Entry shall be conducted in a manner that will not significantly disrupt the provision of nursing or other care to residents and if the long-term care facility requires registration of all visitors entering the facility, then the State or Regional Ombudsman must also register. Any State or Regional Ombudsman who discloses any information obtained from the resident's records except as permitted under the Older Americans Act of 1965, as amended, 42 U.S.C. 3001 et seq., and regulations promulgated thereunder, is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.

(b) The State or Regional Ombudsman shall identify himself as such to the resident, and the resident has the right to refuse to communicate with the Ombudsman.

(c) The resident has the right to participate in planning any course of action to be taken on his behalf by the State or Regional Ombudsman, and the resident has the right to approve or disapprove any proposed action to be taken on his behalf by the Ombudsman.

(d) The State or Regional Ombudsman shall meet with the facility administrator or person in charge before any action is taken to allow the facility the opportunity to respond, provide additional information, or take appropriate action to resolve the concern.

(e) The State and Regional Ombudsman may obtain from any government agency, and this agency shall provide, that cooperation, assistance, services, data, and access to files and records that will enable the Ombudsman to properly perform his duties and exercise his powers, provided this information is not privileged by law.

(f) If the subject of the complaint involves suspected abuse, neglect, or exploitation, the Regional Ombudsman shall only with the written informed consent of the resident or authorization by the State Ombudsman notify the Adult Protection Services section of the county department of social services. Except as provided herein, the State or Regional Ombudsman is not subject to the reporting requirements of Article 6 of Chapter 108A of the General Statutes. (1989, c. 403, s. 1; 1993, c. 539, s. 1038; 1994, Ex. Sess., c. 24, s. 14(c); 1995, c. 254, s. 4; 2015-220, s. 2.)