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Stopping Nursing Home Abuse in Florida – The Time is Now

By Joe Landy

The purpose of nursing homes is to care for the elderly who are not capable of caring for themselves. Although some nursing homes do provide quality care, far too often nursing homes put profit before people.  In recent years, nursing home abuse has been associated with the Hollywood Hills tragedy.  On September 13, 2018, Hurricane Irma knocked out power to the air conditioning units at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills.  The aftermath was hell on earth – for three days the residents were tortured by extreme heat.  These vulnerable adults began to deteriorate, with some patients’ temperatures soaring to 109 degrees.  Despite the fact that a hospital was located across the street from the facility, the residents were not transferred.  As a result, twelve residents suffered the ultimate loss – death.

Although the Hollywood Hills tragedy shed light on nursing home abuse on a national level, the unfortunate reality is people are abused daily in nursing homes across the state of Florida. Nursing homes are governed by Florida Statute Chapter 400.  Section 400.022 sets forth the rights of nursing home residents which includes the right to receive adequate and appropriate health care as well as the right to be treated courteously, fairly, and with the fullest measure of dignity.  What happens when the residents’ rights are not met?  Unfortunately, not enough.

Our firm has pursued justice on behalf of nursing home abuse victims for decades. In doing so, we have sought not only to obtain justice for our clients, but also to force nursing homes to comply with their statutory duties – thereby preventing future abuse.  A recent article in TC Palm, titled “How to Stop the Cycle of Neglect in Florida’s Nursing Homes”, argues that Florida regulators do not hold nursing homes accountable for abuse and, therefore, Floridians must demand change.  The story cites a USA Today investigation which found that regulators routinely fail to follow through, even when a nursing home resident dies.

The statistics cited by TC Palm were sickening – 7,200 violations over a period of five years in 54 of the worst nursing homes in the state. The incidents included 191 deaths, a resident who suffered rotting genitals because he was not bathed, and another resident who died while vomiting her own feces.  Although the investigative reporters found that many of the 54 nursing homes should have been shut down, only two of the approximately 680 homes that AHCA regulates has been shut down since 2013.

The solution is simple – mandatory insurance with sufficient policy limits to cover all potential claims. If coverage is not in place, the facility’s license should automatically be revoked. This proposed system would force facilities to strive to put people before profits by providing adequate care.  If they fail to do so, they will not be able to procure the required insurance coverage and, as a result, would lose their license.  If a motor vehicle driver continues to incur moving violation citations, eventually the driver will no longer be able to obtain car insurance.  Shouldn’t nursing home residents – one of the most vulnerable aspects of our population – be entitled to the same protections?  Of course, and the time is now.

If your loved one has been the victim of nursing home abuse, feel free to contact the attorneys at Lesser, Lesser, Landy & Smith, PLLC. We have decades of experience handling all types of nursing home cases.

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