.16 Complaint Procedure.

A. A resident, the resident's representative, or an interested individual has the right to:

(1) Make a complaint about the nursing facility;

(2) Recommend a change in facility policy and procedure; and

(3) Be free from reprisal, restraint, interference, coercion, or discrimination by the nursing facility or its employees as a result of making a complaint or recommending a change in policy.

B. A nursing facility shall develop and implement the following complaint procedures:

(1) A resident, the resident's representative, or an interested individual may present complaints to:

(a) The nursing facility administration;

(b) The nursing facility's staff;

(c) The Office;

(d) The Department; or

(e) Other persons or groups;

(2) A complaint may be made to the nursing facility in person, orally or in writing, by telephone or by mail, and may be reported anonymously;

(3) A nursing facility may not require the signature of the resident or, when applicable, the resident's representative or an interested individual on a complaint;

(4) If a complaint is presented to a nursing facility, the nursing facility shall investigate within 30 days the allegations made in the complaint and advise the complainant of the action the nursing facility is taking to resolve the complaint;

(5) A nursing facility shall send to the Office and the Department a copy of any complaint that a complainant indicates has not been resolved to the satisfaction of the complainant;

(6) A nursing facility shall maintain a permanent record for inspection by the Office or the Department of all complaints concerning the nursing facility; and

(7) A complainant may request a hearing from the Department within 30 days of receiving the facility's response to the complaint or within 60 days of filing the complaint, whichever is earlier.

C. A complaint which has not been resolved to the satisfaction of the complainant may be resolved through a hearing as follows:

(1) After receiving a written request for a hearing, the Department shall forward a copy of the request to the Office and schedule a hearing;

(2) The nursing facility may be represented by the nursing facility administrator, designee, or counsel;

(3) The complainant may be represented by:

(a) The complainant;

(b) The Office;

(c) Counsel; or

(d) Any other individual;

(4) The Department's Director of Licensing and Certification, or a designee of the Director, shall conduct the hearing;

(5) The Director or the Director's designee may:

(a) Receive testimony from both parties;

(b) If appropriate, issue deficiencies and require the nursing facility to submit a plan of correction;

(c) Attempt to assist the parties in reaching a satisfactory resolution;

(d) Notify the complainant of the results of the findings and any actions taken; and

(e) Notify the appropriate State's attorney if there is evidence of criminal conduct.

D. A hearing conducted under §C of this regulation is not a contested case as defined in State Government Article, §10-202, Annotated Code of Maryland.