One in five Florida nursing homes is on the state’s Agency for Health Care Administration watch list for not meeting the bare minimum requirements for care standards or for flunking routine inspections and then not correcting those violations.
This is according to the Families for Better Care advocacy group.
Our nursing home abuse attorneys are not surprised by this, given the extent of abuse and neglect we hear about from clients.
Certainly, there are facilities that do strive to provide quality care for our aging loved ones. But discerning the good ones from the bad ones can be tough. What this research shows is that roughly 20 percent are blatantly avoiding their responsibilities – and putting your loved ones in jeopardy.
You may recall, Families for Better Care was founded by a man named Brian Lee, the state’s former Long Term Care Ombudsman. He was shoved out of his position back in 2011 by Gov. Rick Scott after he worked tirelessly (and apparently too hard for Scott’s liking) to hold failing facilities accountable for their shortcomings. Just as an aside, this was what the ombudsman’s office is responsible for, but the relationship between state regulators and the long-term care industry has become quite cozy in recent years, with profits often coming before patient protections.
Instead of simply leaving these matters in the hands of the state, Lee founded Families for Better Care in an effort to raise awareness about some of the more troubling aspects of Florida’s long-term care industry. And that’s exactly what he has done with this report.
The AHCA has indicated that those facilities on the watch list are only operating on a conditional basis. That is, they must meet certain standards of care or face immediate action if it’s determined someone’s health or life is placed in danger.
But it’s worth noting that many of these facilities are on this watch list for months. A dozen have been on it for more than 100 days. A few have even been on it for more than a year – and up to three years. And yet, they are all still operating, still business as usual.
In light of this information, Lee said it appears the watch list in and of itself is not an effective tool to battle nursing home abuse, neglect and negligence. At the end of the day, it seems the only thing that really forces a facility to improve is intense public scrutiny. That can only happen if people are aware of what is happening. That occurs one of two ways: Either someone dies or is seriously hurt and the media picks it up, or the AHCA could send out media releases to let people know, rather than forcing the public to simply search the list online.
That list, if you’ve ever tried to access it, is buried in the state’s online Nursing Home Guide. It’s technically public, but if you don’t know exactly what you’re searching for, you’re going to have a rough time finding it. As Lee put it: “Agencies hoard the data from consumers.”
And even when you do find the information, it can be difficult to discern. For example, you might find a nursing home that has one out of five stars for categories such as “nutrition and hydration,” “decline” and “restraints and abuse.” So you might think this is really bad, right? But then when you click further to find out what exactly those stars mean, you have the AHCA telling you that a low rank isn’t necessarily a bad rank because it’s all relative to the rankings within the region – and some regions do better than others in the state.
What this also means is that a “good” rating may not necessarily be so great, if you live in a region that tends to do poorer than others.
Call us today if you are concerned that your loved one may be suffering from nursing home abuse or neglect.
Freeman, Mallard, Sharp & Gonzalez — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.
Happytown: One out of five Florida nursing homes on state watch list, Jan. 2, 2013, By Billy Manes and Erin Sullivan, Orlando Weekly
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