EDITORIAL: Nursing Homes Failing and We Need to Fix It• Naples Daily News
People are being mistreated and dying in Florida’s nursing homes because state officials are allowing these facilities to stay open despite a history of broken regulations and failures.
A comprehensive look at breakdowns in the state’s nursing home system by USA TODAY NETWORK-Florida writers Melanie Payne and Ryan Mills detailed a system in crisis. It’s a system that puts patients at risk every day.
More than 50 of the state’s nursing homes remain open despite a history of violations, patient neglect and death. It must stop now.
How many more deaths will it take before the state recognizes the crisis? The state must find solutions and do it quickly. The state must follow up on all recorded violations — no matter how small — and make sure the problems are corrected.
Homes that have a history of repeated violations must face significant fines, which must be paid in a reasonable amount of time, not just ignored. A possible loss of Medicaid and Medicare funding could be a punishment.
Homes that repeatedly fail to fix significant problems, have a history of unpaid fines, plus a continuing pattern of patient abuse and deaths must be shut down immediately.
The deaths of 12 people in a Hollywood Hills nursing home last year triggered another look at the failing system. They were neglected following Hurricane Irma, left inside the home without power and in sweltering conditions. The deaths are resulting in new laws requiring nursing homes to have generators as a backup for the loss of power. Homes should have backup power or another way to keep patients out of harm’s way in case there is a power loss.
There are horrible flaws in the regulation system statewide where harsh penalties are seldom levied, homes continue to operate despite repeated violations, and few are closed despite, in some cases, more than 100 violations at a single facility.
Systemic failures exist throughout nursing homes across the state.
Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration, which licenses and regulations the homes, seldom uses the toughest sanctions at its disposal, despite statistics that clearly show many homes should be closed because of the repeated violations. Consider:
- Fifty-four nursing homes scored the lowest in the state for at least 14 of 18 quarters of performance and received 100 or more violations.
- Forty-six of the worst 54 homes settled or have contested lawsuits claiming mistreatment, abuse or neglect that led to at least 191 deaths.
- Fines are low for nursing homes with violations, with the average less than $5,000, despite millions of dollars facilities receive each year from Medicare and Medicaid.
- The AHCA has closed only two homes and blocked new admissions for three since 2013.
- Officials at these nursing homes must understand that neglect of frail patients isn’t tolerated. They can’t just continue to operate status quo, knowing the state may talk tough but will do nothing to hold them accountable.
Caregivers also must do their homework when preparing to send a loved one to a nursing facility. Check the ratings, the violations and standard of care. Make an informed choice.