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California Sued for Not Providing Nurses for Disabled Children

California has approved over 4,000 low-income, medically-fragile children for in-home nursing care, all paid for by the state's Medicaid program, Medi-Cal. But a new lawsuit claims those children aren't getting the around-the-clock nursing care they require and are supposed to receive by law.

"The state's failure to arrange for in-home nursing also creates an enormous strain on families, which in turn can lead to job loss, broken relationships, and caregiver burnout," according to plaintiffs' attorney William Leiner. "Some parents are forced to face the unfathomable possibility that their children may need to leave the family home to obtain needed nursing care."

A Dearth of Nurses

According to NBC Bay Area, California's Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) recently found that home health nurses could only provide 71 percent of the hours needed to care for sick children statewide. Home health care agencies blamed the in-home nursing shortage on higher pay provided by hospitals. And the shortage has had a significant impact on families:

The NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit first exposed in 2016 that the nursing shortage is taking a toll. We've spoken to families who have had to move out of the Bay Area to find nurses, parents who have had to quit their jobs to stay home full time with their kids, and children who have been on nursing agency waiting lists for years.

Around-the-Clock Needs but N Around-the-Clock Care

The lawsuit, which names DHCS and its director Jennifer Kent as defendants, was filed by the parents of a 7-year-old girl and 5-year-old boy and seeks class action status to represent the thousands of other children not receiving the nursing care ordered by their doctors and approved by the agency. The children "cannot move, turn, feed, dress, bathe or otherwise take care of themselves" and require round-the-clock care, according to the lawsuit. Yet California has "systemically failed to arrange for these nursing services as mandated by federal law" by providing only a fraction of the nursing hours promised by the state and parents are left to "navigate a complex system with little to no support in obtaining necessary services for their children."

The plaintiffs are asking a federal judge to order California to arrange care for the affected children.

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