Two pieces of legislation moving through the Florida Legislature could result in fewer inspections at nursing homes. Supporters of the two bills argue that reducing the number of inspections at certain nursing homes would free up resources for the worst performing facilities. Opponents are concerned that reducing inspections would put already vulnerable nursing home residents at risk. With nursing home abuse a continuing problem in many facilities, advocates and families are keeping watch on how the legislation proceeds.
Legislation Could Impact Florida Nursing Homes
Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) currently must inspect problem nursing homes every six months for a period of two years. Now, two bills could push back how many inspections are required and provide more flexibility for the AHCA. But is that a positive change?
Support for Legislative Changes
Supporters of Senate Bill 1726 and House Bill 731 argue that the bills would allow the AHCA to spend less time in high-quality facilities, which would allow them to focus on problem facilities. AHCA staff is currently strained due to the number of facilities and in the increase in the state’s population.
Supporters believe that the AHCA should have flexibility in scaling back inspections on high-performing facilities that experience a rare serious violation. The idea is that consistently high-performing facilities that correct problems do not require the same oversight as consistently poor-performing facilities.
Deputy Secretary of the AHCA, Molly McKinstry, says,
Currently, the AHCA is required to “go back with a full inspection team every six months for two years while we have other facilities that have a more chronic history that we’re not spending as much time in because they didn’t have a Class 1 (violation),”
Senator Aaron Bean (R-Jackonsville), who is a sponsor for both bills, hopes that the legislation will free up resources from high-performing facilities and allow the AHCA to spend more time at poor-performing facilities. Bean says that there is room to amend the bills to continue requiring six-month inspections for two years for the worst facilities.
The AHCA contends they will still be required to follow federal guidelines under the new laws. This includes inspections at all facilities at least once every 15 months. Furthermore, the AHCA still must inspect all claims of mistreatment, abuse or neglect.
Opposition to Legislative Changes
Opponents of the legislation have concerns that reducing the frequency of inspections will only make more problems. If SB 1726 and HB 731 pass, the flexibility to reduce inspections would apply to all nursing homes, not just high performers. That means that chronic poor performers may also not be subject to the same routine inspections as they are now.
In 2018, it was reported that many of Florida’s worst-performing nursing homes had a lengthy history of substandard care. There are currently 59 nursing homes that require the routine two-year intense inspection cycle. Former head of Florida’s Long-Term Care Ombudsman, Brian Lee, says,
“Even if you take at face value what they say is true – AHCA is overburdened, they’re overtasked, the Legislature wants to help to focus on bad operators, concentrate your resources, take them away from the facilities that are doing good and go after the bad guys – well, if you look at this bill, it does exactly the opposite. That’s the sad irony.”
While it is true that the AHCA’s workload is increasing, opponents to the new laws believe the key is not reducing the workload, but rather increasing the budget to allow for more staff.
Low-Rated Nursing Homes Cited with Class 1 Violations
It is difficult for most of us to imagine our elderly loved ones could ever suffer from abuse or neglect. But it is a tragic reality. Of the 695 nursing homes in Florida, 59 have a rating of “below average” from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Out of the five stars that a facility can get, these 59 only have 1.9 stars. The types of violations in these facilities hardly warrant even a quarter of a star, however.
According to a report in the Naples Daily News, some of the most telling violations include:
- A resident at a Central Florida nursing home was left out in the sun for three hours. The resident died due to hyperthermia (her temperature was 107 degrees), cardiac arrest and acute respiratory failure.
- A resident at a nursing home in Melbourne was taken to the emergency room. There, the hospital found antipsychotic medication in the patient’s system at 80 times the recommended and prescribed dose.
- A resident at a nursing home near Gainesville died because staff members waited five minutes between finding them unresponsive and initiating cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
- At the same facility near Gainesville, another resident was given an overdose of morphine.
These are just a handful of examples of the types of situations that result in AHCA involvement and citations. Furthermore, there are numerous ways that nursing home abuse and neglect manifest. Unfortunately, in the vast majority of cases, residents do not file a report.
Have Questions about Abuse in Florida Nursing Homes?
Do you have questions about abuse or neglect in Florida nursing homes? Do you have reason to suspect that your loved one is suffering abuse? If so, contact Nursing Home Abuse Center for help. Our Florida nursing home abuse lawyer can certainly answer your questions and help you find the best options to protect your loved one. We offer a free initial consultation to every potential client, so you have nothing to lose by contacting us.
To request information or to schedule a free consultation with a lawyer, call us at 1-888-548-9636.