The Republic reported that advocates for the elderly are objecting with Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s choice of Barbara Hickert to be the state’s long-term care ombudsman, raising concerns that consumers’ best interests will be ignored, and abuse and neglect will be covered up. This is the third person coming from the nursing home industry to hold the post. Brownback has appointed several people with nursing home ties, including Aging Secretary Shawn Sullivan and Joe Ewert as commissioner for licensure, certification and evaluation. Sullivan was a Wichita nursing home administrator and Ewert worked for LeadingAge Kansas.
"I’m not overstating it, it’s life or death," said Mitzi McFatrich, executive director of Kansas Advocates for Better Care. "Right now, there’s a heavy weight on the provider side. The concern is that consumer needs will be second to industry."
It’s extremely rare for someone from the nursing home industry to be appointed as state ombudsman. Mark Miller, the ombudsman for New York and vice president of the National Association of State Long-Term Care Ombudsman Programs, said "I can’t think of a single colleague. I think that’s something the average person would have a question about," Miller said. "’Where do this person’s allegiances lie?’"