(1) The Legislature finds that conditions in long-term care facilities in this state are such that the rights, health, safety, and welfare of residents are not fully ensured by rules of the Department of Elderly Affairs or the Agency for Health Care Administration or by the good faith of owners or operators of long-term care facilities. Furthermore, there is a need for a formal mechanism whereby a long-term care facility resident, a representative of a long-term care facility resident, or any other concerned citizen may make a complaint against the facility or its employees, or against other persons who are in a position to restrict, interfere with, or threaten the rights, health, safety, or welfare of a long-term care facility resident. The Legislature finds that concerned citizens are often more effective advocates for the rights of others than governmental agencies. The Legislature further finds that in order to be eligible to receive an allotment of funds authorized and appropriated under the federal Older Americans Act, the state must establish and operate an Office of State Long-Term Care Ombudsman, to be headed by the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman, and carry out a long-term care ombudsman program.
(2) It is the intent of the Legislature, therefore, to utilize voluntary citizen ombudsman councils under the leadership of the ombudsman, and through them to operate an ombudsman program which shall, without interference by any executive agency, undertake to discover, investigate, and determine the presence of conditions or individuals which constitute a threat to the rights, health, safety, or welfare of the residents of long-term care facilities. To ensure that the effectiveness and efficiency of such investigations are not impeded by advance notice or delay, the Legislature intends that the ombudsman and ombudsman councils and their designated representatives not be required to obtain warrants in order to enter into or conduct investigations or onsite administrative assessments of long-term care facilities. It is the further intent of the Legislature that the environment in long-term care facilities be conducive to the dignity and independence of residents and that investigations by ombudsman councils shall further the enforcement of laws, rules, and regulations that safeguard the health, safety, and welfare of residents.