The Northern Virginia Daily's Political Depot

A service for our readers outside the Northern Shenandoah Valley... a sampling of The Daily's political coverage, plus unofficial, 'reporter's notebook' stuff. And occasional dry humor...

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Location: Strasburg, Virginia

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Byrne: Cameras needed in nursing homes; B2

By Garren Shipley
Daily Staff Writer

Democratic lieutenant governor hopeful Leslie Byrne launched an attack on her Republican opponent this week using some novel ammunition: nursing homes.

The former congresswoman said at a press conference that as lieutenant governor she would support legislation that would allow residents of nursing homes to install cameras and other surveillance equipment in their rooms to document care and conditions.

“Entering a nursing home should not mean forfeiting your right or a loved one’s right to be treated with fairness, dignity and respect,” Byrne said.

“The best way to guarantee quality treatment of nursing home patients is through strong family involvement,” she said.
“Allowing families to install cameras gives families another tool to protect their loved ones from the quiet terrorism of abuse and neglect.

Virginia’s retirement homes and their employees are by-and-large doing a good job, but there are exceptions, she said.

“Unfortunately, many nursing homes don’t hire enough employees to handle the patient workload and a small minority of the employees actively seeks to harm residents,” she said. “Families have a right to know if there is a problem with the treatment or care of their loved ones.”

Byrne took her Republican opponent, Sen. Bill Bolling, R-Mechanicsville, to task for voting to table a bill she sponsored in 2003, as a state senator from Falls Church, that would have accomplished the same thing.

The plan announced Wednesday would also protect nursing homes from invasion of privacy liability and would protect other residents’ rights to privacy and not to be under surveillance if they so choose, according to Byrne’s campaign.

A spokesman for Bolling’s campaign said the candidate voted against the bill because state law already gives nursing home residents and their families the right to install surveillance cameras, provided they reach an agreement with the nursing home.

The long-dormant race for the state’s top part-time job has become more heated recently, as the campaigns prepare for the long run into November.

While technically the second-most important race on the ballot, the campaigns for lieutenant governor have so far struggled to attain anything like the visibility enjoyed by all three candidates for governor.

Bolling struck first earlier this month, pouncing on Byrne’s statement at a United Mine Workers meeting in Southwest calling Virginia’s right-to-work law “the right to be poor law,” and saying she would repeal it if given the chance.

“Repealing the right-to-work law would endanger tens of thousands of jobs in Virginia,” Bolling said. “The right-to-work law has enjoyed broad bipartisan support for the past 30 years, and Ms. Byrne’s opposition to this important law is just another example of how far out of the mainstream she is.”

Byrne later told reporters that it was highly unlikely that she’d get a chance to repeal the law, which makes it illegal to condition employment on union membership, if elected.

“The fact is, the right-to-work law is not going to come up for a tie vote in the Senate any time soon,” she told The Associated Press.

Bolling is slated to appear at the Shenandoah County Fair today. Election Day is Nov. 8.