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Advocates Say Formal Nursing Home Bill of Rights in Florida Needed

Nursing home safety advocates are calling on Florida lawmakers to pass an amendment to the state constitution that would guarantee certain rights to vulnerable residents in nursing homes and assisted living centers.

An incident of nursing home negligence in Orlando last year – resulting in a recently announced $1 million fine by federal authorities – is the latest to spark discussion of the need for such change. According to the Orlando Sentinel, the facility assigned a single assistant to supervise a trip to a local super store with nine residents – all of whom required around-the-clock care, five of whom were in wheelchairs and three who used walkers. One needed the bathroom but the assistant was nowhere to be found, so the man attempted it on his own. He ultimately lost control of his bowels and his balance, suffering a broken hip. When the attendant rushed to aid the man,  he neglected the others.

It was this incident (along with another wherein a patient did not receive important medical treatment) that resulted in a government investigation and subsequent fine. Nearly two dozen health code violations were cited, and the facility earned a spot on the national watch list of facilities that don’t correct repeat issues. Despite the fine, advocates for safer nursing homes say it doesn’t go far enough. They want a formal bill of rights added to the constitution, where it could not be easily rolled back by lawmakers or future presidential administrations squeezed or swayed by nursing home industry lobbyists and stakeholders.

One of those calling for change leads a national nursing home advocacy group, and says the public is largely unaware about the way these facilities are run and the risk they pose to residents. He noted it’s telling that even 12 nursing home resident deaths of heat-related illness after Hurricane Irma – all classified as homicides – were not enough to spur industry change. The facility may yet lose its license and Gov. Rick Scott has asked the facilities to maintain backup generators that can provide at nearly 100 hours of fuel so temperatures can stay at a safe level in the event the power goes out for an extended time. The governor has also asked for the panel that combs the state’s constitution every two decades for a determination potential changes pertaining to the protection of nursing home residents. Proposal 88 is now being considered by the commission and is the public hearings stage. If the panel approves it, the issue then goes to voters this fall. 

Among the rights outlined, nursing home residents would be constitutionally entitled to treatment that is fair, courteous and maintains one’s dignity. They would have the right to health care that is adequate and appropriate and they would live in a homelike environment that is clean, safe and comfortable. Nursing homes would also be required to take precautions (within reason) against natural disasters.

Finally, the proposal takes aim at nursing home arbitration clauses, which our Orlando nursing home abuse attorneys know so often deny residents the opportunity to file a civil lawsuit, forcing them instead to resolve disputes in a closed and biased arbitration process. Proposal 88 as written would guarantee residents the right to access courts and would place no limitation on damages. The proposal also would prohibit nursing homes from asking a resident to waive those rights, and would be required to purchase enough liability insurance to sufficiently cover just compensation for residents and families of residents who are harmed.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights. Now serving Orlando, West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie and Fort Lauderdale.

Additional Resources:

Do Florida nursing home patients need a bill of rights? Feb. 3, 2018, By Kate Santich, The Orlando Sentinel

More Blog Entries:

Medical Examiner: Nursing Home Could Have Saved Lives After Hurricane, But Failed, Feb. 12, 2018, Orlando Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Blog

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