A recent in-depth analysis by South Florida journalists reveals dozens of nursing homes in Florida with a long history of failure to provide adequate care remain open and operational, putting current and future patients at serious risk.
The News-Press in Fort Myers reports that in the last five years, the 55 lowest-scoring nursing homes in the state for the last 14 of previous 18 quarters racked up more than 100 – or more – violations that threatened resident health and safety. The bottom 46 of those have been sued in nursing home abuse and neglect lawsuits alleging mistreatment or poor care. Nursing home owners denied those claims, but nonetheless settled 87 of them. The remaining 104 are still pending.
Unfortunately, it’s not as if nursing home fines for these violations are much of a motivator for change. On average, fines for serious violations are about $5,000, but often less. Now stack that up against the millions of dollars these facilities receive for taxpayer-funded Medicaid and Medicare programs. Although the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, the state center responsible for licensing and regulating nursing homes, very seldom uses the biggest weapons in its arsenal to address these issues. That’s why in the last five years, only two nursing homes have been shut down and three were blocked from receiving further admissions.
Oversight of state nursing homes is woefully inadequate, say advocates with Families for Better Care, a non-profit aimed at promoting safety in nursing homes. Instead, the director of that organization (who was the former Long-Term Care Ombudsman for the Department of Elder Affairs) says these facilities continue to be strung along for years, despite ongoing and new violations.
We’ve seen this pattern repeat time and again.
Of the two nursing homes that have been shuttered over the last five years, it took the deaths of 12 residents in the sweltering heat post-Hurricane Irma, when the Hollywood Hills nursing home failed to call for emergency health despite having no power and the failure of back-up generators. What you may not have heard was that same facility had a history poorly-maintaining that facility and neglecting patients. In fact, the owner had been facing allegations of Medicare fraud, though ultimately settled the case without admitting guilt.
As noted by nursing home safety advocates, the case out of Hollywood Hills was about so much more than a broken down generator and no power. It was about a systemic issue that allowed these kinds of conditions to persist unaddressed, and as we have seen time and again, it results in tragedy.
The instances of abuse and neglect are not always so dramatic as a dozen deaths at a time. In some cases, it’s a dementia patient who wanders off-sight. It’s the elderly woman in the wheelchair who has suffered four falls in the last year. It’s the resident on a pureed diet who is given a roll for dinner. These might seem like minor oversights, but they can have deadly consequences. Facilities with a long track record of these kinds of egregious violations need more than a mere slap on the wrist.
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.
Neglected: Florida’s worst nursing homes left open despite history of poor care, deaths, Feb. 22, 2018, By Melanie Payne, The News-Press
More Blog Entries:
Advocates Say Formal Nursing Home Bill of Rights in Florida Needed, Feb. 26, 2018, Florida Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Blog