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Order your autographed copy now C & M Publications 6110 Hwy. 290 West Austin,TX 78735 Texas residents send $10.00 Out of state $9.55. but it was also more than that. The incident brought out Bernstein’s caution, his conservatism, and his thinly-veiled disdain for citizens without scientific backgrounds who get involved in scientific disputes. And the EDB issue was not the first time critics of the health department ran up against a certain hardheadedness on the part of the commissioner. Over the last six years Bernstein has gained a number of detractors in the health care profession, among environmental and minority groups, and in the state legislature. There seems to be a widespread fear of his wrath, however, and many critics refuse to be quoted. Bernstein, on the contrary, seems to have no fear of speaking frankly. In a recent interview with the Observer, the mere mention of his critics put him in a dyspeptic and sometimes explosive mood. But he also has the capacity for a certain bemusement at the positions he finds himself in. And whatever else he is, he is always blunt. Dr. Bernstein’s first job at the health department, monitoring nursing homes as chief of the Bureau of Long Term Care and later as Deputy Commissioner of Special Health Services, was one of the toughest assignments he could get. Throughout the 1970s nursing home care in Texas was notoriously bad and largely unregulated. In 1977 a health department inspector named Betty Korndorffer decided that only relentless reporting of substandard care would bring hope of stronger enforcement. In that year she started filing reports on poor conditions at the Autumn Hills Convalescent Center in Galveston. The reports continued through 1978, when Dr. Bernstein was hired. Some mild administrative actions were taken against the nursing home, but Korndorffer continued to find problems and continued to file voluminous reports. Those complaints which got referred from the health department to the Galveston district attorney’s office for possible legal action seemed to go nowhere. And once, when TDH was about to suspend Autumn Hills’ eligibility for Medicaid funding, state legislator A. G. Jim Mattox says he thinks Bernstein has learned from the nursing home experience. Bill Heatly intervened and got Bernstein to drop the action. The case gathered dust at the district attorney’s office in Galveston until, in 1979, it caught the eye of an aggressive young assistant DA named David Marks. Marks was horrified by reports that elderly patients had died at the home through neglect and abuse. He began to prepare the case against Autumn Hills, and finally in 1981 a grand jury indicted the corporation and eight individuals for the murder by neglect of eight patients who died in Autumn Hills in 1978 and 1979. As Marks continued to prepare the case, he came to believe that an even larger number of deaths could be attributed to neglect at the home, but in 1982 his boss, then-Galveston District Attorney James Hury, arranged a plea bargain that allowed the corporation off with a $100,000 fine. Shortly afterward, a judge threw the plea bargain out. The case is still going on, with a new grand jury expected to decide the future of it soon. Looking back on it now, Bernstein argues that the late action against Autumn Hills was the fault of the district attorney’s office. As soon as inspector Korndorffer let him know “there was an inordinate amount of deaths over a period of time,” he says, he called the owners of the home to his office. They “denied everything,” Bernstein says, but “in any case, as soon as we had any hint of abuse and neglect, we were the ones who started that whole thing. . . . Whatever the DA had down there was started by us. And it took them forever to do anything about it. As it does most district attorneys.” As for the intervention by former Rep. Heatly, “The grand jury knows what there is to know about that, and 8 SEPTEMBER 28, 1984 1.0.4*.rdmi.Osispomo…*.twav,404.4wip……….rinciftwow…mads. ~we hhortirtAalliaMisiift;4010040., we041140164A rk kitallalorinwair..”