Florida’s First District Court of Appeal upheld action from Gov. Rick Scott to shutter a Broward County nursing home that garnered national attention last year following a dozen deaths in the wake of Hurricane Irma.
The Agency for Health Care Administration issued an immediate moratorium on admissions that blocked the already-evacuated facility from accepting any new residents. The government regulator issued an immediate final suspension order, suspending the facility’s center in the Medicaid program, as well as a suspension order, suspending the facility’s license to operate.
Fighting back with a series of petitions challenging those orders, the facility asserted that each failed to provide sufficient specific factual allegations justifying emergency action. They also alleged the AHCA failed to provide the appropriate administrative hearing. The appellate court ruled the challenge to the immediate moratorium on admissions to the facility was moot in light of the subsequent emergency suspension order which halted the facility’s license to operate, and that the orders to suspend the facility’s access to Medicaid as well as license to operate were sufficiently supported by fact. Further, the court rejected the facility’s argument that it was not given the proper opportunity for a hearing because the record didn’t demonstrate that the facility requested a hearing.
You may recall this is the same facility that became aware its air conditioning equipment ceased to operate effectively on September 12, 2017. This was in the immediate wake of the monster storm the facility knew for days was coming. The facility contacted the local electrical power provider and also placed eight coolers throughout, as well as fans in the halls. The following evening, numerous residents began to suffer respiratory and cardiac distress. Eight of those individuals died soon thereafter, and four died of related conditions. Emergency responders and law enforcement responded and, seeing so many of the residents in distress, evacuated the second floor of the building and later the entire building.
The AHCA decided the moratorium was needed because the conditions and practices at the facility presented an immediate serious danger or threat to the residents, and further that the facility’s conduct was deficient and widespread, placing all future residents at immediate risk of threat to their welfare, health and safety. At the time the moratorium was issued, the agency concluded the deficient practices had existed in the past and more likely than not would continue into the future without intervention, and the facility was ill-equipped to do that.
The facility was directly across the street from a hospital and despite that hospital being operational and able to receive patients, the nursing home did not move to have those patients moved across the street. The events of those few days remain under active criminal investigation, though no charges have yet been filed.
The court noted that state law allows the AHCA to suspend Medicaid participation and operation when information has been received indicating to patient nursing home abuse or neglect, and that immediate final orders may be entered when there is evidence of immediate danger to public health, safety or welfare.
This action is particularly noteworthy because the AHCA rarely takes this kind of action against facilities.
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Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills v. AHCA, June 20, 2018, Florida’s First District Court of Appeal
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Family Sues for Nursing Home Missed Medication Causing Wrongful Death, May 29, 2018, Broward Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Blog