Florida Nursing Homes Escaping Liability for Patient Deaths
FLORIDA – An online article at naplesnews.com, some nursing homes in Florida have been able to avoid liability for patient deaths.*
One of the most high-profile cases of patient deaths in Florida nursing homes occurred last year, when 12 people at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills during Hurricane Irma. The storm knocked out the nursing home’s power, so residents were stuck with no air conditioning during a period of sweltering heat. The nursing home staff failed to transport the residents elsewhere, including to a hospital that was across the street.
The state Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) quickly investigated the case and banned the center from admitting new patients, as well as stopped Medicaid payments to the facility. Less than two weeks after the storm hit Florida, AHCA suspended the nursing home’s state license and took steps toward shutting down the facility. This was a demonstration of swift and powerful action by an agency designed to ensure the safety of state nursing homes.
However, most cases of nursing home abuse and neglect — many cases resulting in death — do not receive this level of attention and enforcement from AHCA. One such case is that of 81-year-old Dolly Moore. Moore was a patient at Parklands Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Gainesville, Florida, and developed lethargy and loss of appetite. Nurses at the center told Moore’s family the symptoms were due to advancing dementia, and that Moore’s lab results were all normal.
Moore eventually became so sick she needed to be transferred to an emergency room. Doctors found she had a severe infection that had spread through her body, causing massive cranial swelling. Doctors could do little to save her by the time she was admitted, and she died on October 1, 2014.
Florida’s Department of Children and Families investigated and found that Moore’s death was due to neglect. DCF’s findings were then submitted to AHCA, which took no action against the nursing home. AHCA did not fine the facility, did not issue a citation, or suspend the facility’s license. It is not even clear that AHCA investigated the facility after receiving DCF’s report.
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