“A relative handful of providers are delivering poor, even dangerous, care that is being hidden from consumers.”

This is a direct quote from a Forbes.com article published on July 12 and written by senior contributor Howard Gleckman. It relays some eye-opening news, especially for those people living in nursing homes and their family members. This is a real concern for anyone currently residing in a Florida nursing home – or those considering these homes in the future.

From the article, …”three reports in the past month have outlined serious problems with the way some nursing homes and hospices are caring for their patients. The tales are similar: A relative handful of providers are delivering poor, even dangerous, care that is being hidden from consumers. But the real story is far more troubling: Neither the federal government nor many states have the resources (or perhaps the interest) to do much about it.

Years of budget cuts make it harder for federal or state government to respond to these bad actors. Industry resistance to government regulation handcuffs enforcement. And industry’s often-passive attempts at self-regulation green lights behavior that tars all providers and puts patients at risk.”

Are abuse, neglect and improper care more common than we think?

As nursing home abuse lawyers here in Florida, we find the information in this article and the associated reports very concerning. We hear about nursing home abuse, nursing home neglect, improper care and negligence first hand from victims and their families. Their stories are appalling, and unfortunately, are not uncommon.

A casual Google Search for nursing home abuse statistics will quickly show you how frequent and how common an issue this is.  The National Council on Aging estimates that as high as 5 million elders are abused each year with estimates that only 1 in 14 cases of abuse are actually even reported to authorities.

Here in Florida where we have a very large population of people living in nursing homes, long term rehabilitation centers and other full care facilities, this is an ongoing cause of concern – both for residents who may be deciding on a move to a home, current residents and certainly for their family who in most cases helps make the decision to move or keep them there.

 Are Florida’s nursing homes dangerous? They certainly can be.

The elderly, generally those above 70 years of age, live in these homes because they require around the clock care and supervision. They are often subjected to:

– Physical abuse
– Emotional abuse
– Sexual abuse
– Confinement
– Willful neglect
– Financial exploitation
– Prescription errors and medical malpractice

And certainly much more.

Though most nursing homes across Florida do provide appropriate levels of care, many do not.  And some provide a level of care that’s so poor that inspections are failed, complaints are made and citations are delivered for non-compliance.

In fact, this article led us to a recently released report by two United States Senators, Bob Casey (D-PA) and Pat Toomey (R-PA). The 26 page report, titled Families’ and Residents’ Right to Know: Uncovering Poor Care in America’s Nursing Homes points directly to 15 nursing home and care facilities right here in Florida (as well as nearly 400 others across the country).

It even refers to one Florida nursing home where:

…staff failed to clean and disinfect glucometers between blood tests of several residents, putting them at risk of infection. As of May 29, 2019, this facility had five star staffing and quality ratings.

Shocking? Yes – for people unfamiliar with what can happen at senior care facilities. For our experienced nursing home lawyers, because we’ve worked on many cases involving abuse, neglect and even nursing home deaths – details like this are still shocking, but not surprising.

What are the dangerous nursing homes in Florida?

– Avante at Orlando – Orlando, Florida
– Tallahassee Memorial Hospital Extended Care – Tallahassee, Florida
– Huntington Place – Rockledge, Florida
– North Rehabilitation Center – St. Petersburg, Florida
– St. Andrews Bay Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation – Panama City, Florida
– Ocean View Nursing & Rehabilitation Center – New Smyrna Beach, Florida
– Oak Haven Rehab and Nursing Center – Auburndale, Florida
– Bristol at Tampa Rehab and Nursing Center – Tampa, Florida
– Avante at Ormond Beach – Ormond Beach, Florida
– Hawthorne Health and Rehab of Sarasota – Sarasota, Florida
– Excel Care Center – Tampa, Florida
– Palm Garden of Vero Beach – Vero Beach, Florida
– Consulate Health Care of Lake Parker – Lakeland, Florida
– Brighton Gardens of Tampa – Tampa, Florida
– Fort Pierce Health Care – Fort Pierce, Florida
– Consulate Health Care of Melbourne – Melbourne, Florida
– Beneva Lakes Helathcare and Rehabilitation Center – Sarasota, Florida

Both Consulate Health Care of Melbourne and Beneva Lakes Helathcare and Rehabilitation Center are considered to be Special Focus Facilities (SFF) which means they persistently underperform in required inspections conducted by state survey agencies and are subject to increased oversight by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

The other nursing home centers, are considered Candidates for SFF – facilities that also show a persistent record of poor care but are not selected for participation as SFF Facilities only because of limited resources at the CMS.

One goal of the report is to “provide Americans and their families with the transparency and information they deserve when choosing a home in which to entrust the care of a loved one.” Thankfully this report has publicly named the offending nursing homes. Florida’s citizens certainly deserve to know which homes may not be safe places for their family members.

Is dangerous the correct word? Is it unsafe? Unsanitary? Potentially life-threatening? Safety concerns occur for a variety of reasons – poor hiring practices, too little training, disrespect for elderly patients, a focus on profits over process, utter negligence and much more.

Additionally, the Florida Agency for Healthcare Adminstration (AHCA) keeps a Watch List of nursing home. You can view that list here and also read Inspection Reports by individual facility.

Per the website, “the Watch List identifies nursing homes that are operating under bankruptcy protection or met the criteria for a conditional status during the past 30 months. A conditional status indicates that a facility did not meet, or correct upon follow-up, minimum standards at the time of an inspection. Immediate action is taken if a facility poses a threat to resident health or safety. Under Florida law, nursing homes have a right to challenge state sanctions. Facilities challenging a conditional license are noted as “under appeal.” Watch List information is subject to change as appeals are processed.”

Each year the Agency for Healthcare Adminstration (AHCA) receives hundreds of documented complaints. However, it’s often up to the family members and attorneys to bring about change. Our attorneys recommend:

– Treating abuse and neglect seriously
– Shut down repeat offender homes
– Create and/or increase fines for offenders – owners, management and staff
– Increase investigations and oversight
– Overhaul regulations that govern nursing home facilities
– Prosecute offenders when necessary

Importantly, family members must keep a watchful eye on the facility where their family member is living. These patients don’t often have the ability to watch out for themselves, recognize if care is substandard or sufficiently communicate their concerns if care is not good.

Baron & Herskowitz will continue to make public the issues and complaints that are related to the care of our elderly here in Florida.