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. Continue reading →