Covid-Only Nursing Homes Cited for Infection Control Problems

The Palm Beach Post

by John Pacenti and Holly Baltz (PHOTO CREDIT: Thomas Hardy, The Palm Beach Post)

Sep 21, 2020

In the days before COVID-19 pounded Florida with the power of Thor’s hammer, Gov. Ron DeSantis repeatedly bashed New York for sending elderly coronavirus patients from hospitals back to nursing homes.

DeSantis’ touted the state's own solution back in May to relieve hospitals: Seniors who still tested positive for the novel coronavirus but were well on the road to recovery would be sent to a new and yet-to-open Jacksonville nursing home.

Florida ended up designating 23 isolation centers before DeSantis' administration abruptly — and surprisingly — reversed course on Tuesday, announcing it was shutting down the project by stopping admissions at all the facilities by Oct. 1. 

The isolation centers were DeSantis’ favorite talking point in protecting seniors in elder care facilities. They were also quite lucrative for the industry at taxpayers’ expense.

Yet, one-third of the isolation centers picked had spotty records on infection control or financial issues that could affect the care of the patients most vulnerable to the disease, a Palm Beach Post investigation found.

And a number of the isolation centers rank in the Top 20 in the state for the number of COVID deaths at facilities.

“You look at the overall ratings, they are not the best facilities in the world. You don’t see the five-star nursing homes going out to designate themselves to be COVID facilities,” said Brian Lee, director of the advocacy group Families for Better Care and who for seven years served as Florida’s ombudsman at the Department of Elder Affairs.

Lee said it seems as if the state just threw darts at a map of Florida to pick the isolation units without checking their own inspection reports. Some of these isolation centers were just dedicated wings at nursing homes while others were COVID only.

The Post investigation found:

  • Violations at three centers involved the care of COVID patients and protecting others from the deadly virus. 
  • Seven of the isolation centers picked have been on the state’s watch list for not meeting minimum standards for nursing care or not correcting violations, COVID or not, in a timely manner. 
  • Two are part of a chain ordered to pay a $250 million fraud judgment that could put the chain out of business. 


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