Nursing Homes Complaints

with the
Bureau of Health Systems,
MI Department of Community Health

Most problems in nursing homes can be resolved without filing formal complaints with the Bureau of Health Systems, the state department that has regulatory authority over nursing homes.

The federal government established the Long Term Care Ombudsman program to help residents of long term care facilities who have complaints about care or services. Ombudsmen can help you regardless of how serious the complaint is or how far it ends up going. Problems or concerns are often resolved by a telephone call or visit from you or the local Ombudsman to the right person at the facility.

Less frequently, you must follow the steps involved in filing formal complaints with BHS, including letters, hearings and appeals. In either case, the ombudsman’s job is to help you succeed. This Fact Sheet explains the formal complaint process.

BHS licenses Michigan long term care facilities and inspects them to determine whether they meet state and federal standards. Nursing homes are inspected yearly to determine if they meet these standards. In addition to annual inspections, BHS is required by law to investigate all written and oral complaints about care, rights, treatment, staffing, food, sanitation and other conditions and services in long-term care.

BHS must begin its investigation within 15 days of receiving a complaint, and respond to the complainant in writing within 30 days. Complaint investigation visits by BHS must be unannounced. If you wish to file a complaint against a facility, please consider the following information:

1. Anyone can file a complaint with BHS against a licensed long-term care facility. It is best to make complaints in writing. If you sent a letter, state that you are making a formal complaint and give the name and address of the facility. A complaint filed over the Internet is considered a written complaint. The Internet complaint web site is located at the end of this fact sheet.

2. You can file a complaint any time within a year of the event or circumstances you are complaining about.

3. When you write the narrative of your complaint, be as specific as possible about the injuries, incidents, or actions you want investigated. It is best to organize the letter around specific issues rather than telling a story of each day’s events.

4. Always include dates, times, names, places, and the people or staff members involved. If any resident(s) has been affected by your complaint, be sure to include his or her name in your complaint. Remember that it is always better to include too much information than too little.

5. Be sure to include your full name, address and daytime telephone number where you can be reached. Under Michigan Law, neither your name nor the name of the resident can be disclosed without your permission during the investigation.

6. If there are any witnesses or other parties who wish to provide information about your complaint, please mention their names, addresses and daytime telephone numbers so they can be contacted during the investigation.

7. It is always helpful to include copies of bills, invoices, letters, death certificates and other documents, if they are relevant.

8. State that you would like a copy of the BHS report sent to you within 30 days.

9. Please send a copy of your complaint to the local Ombudsman office, and request that BHS send a copy of its investigation report to the local Ombudsman.

10. If you wish to remain anonymous, write or call your local Ombudsman. We can forward your concerns without your name.

11. Send your complaint to:

Michigan Department of Community Health
Bureau of Health Systems,
Complaint Investigation Unit
P.O. Box 30664
Lansing, MI 48909
FAX: (517) 241-0093


Although it is best to send your complaint in writing, you may also call the Bureau of Health Systems at 1(800) 882-6006 to file a complaint.

A copy of the complaint form can be accessed on line from our website, Simply click on the Complaints page and follow the instructions to filing a complaint. You may also access the State of Michigan web site directly at: The online form doesn’t allow for anonymous complaints; however, the complainant’s name and/or resident’s name can be withheld during the investigation.


Please call your Local Long Term Care Ombudsman at 1-866-485-9393. Your ombudsman can help you complete the complaint form, or can file the complaint for you if you wish to remain anonymous.


If you are dissatisfied with the investigation report, you may challenge the findings in a number of ways. Another Fact Sheet, “Options for Challenging Complaint Investigation Decisions of BHS” explains those avenues. Please contact your local Ombudsman for help if you are dissatisfied with a BHS investigation.

SAMPLE COMPLAINT LETTER The following sample letter may help you in writing a complaint to the Bureau of Health Systems.