Florida Nursing Homes Face Little Recourse for Abuse

Investigations into the agency responsible for ensuring nursing homes are safe found that Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) routinely doesn’t investigate claims of abuse. Then, if abuse is found, the AHCA rarely gives adqeuate fines or disciplinary measures.

About Nursing Home Abuse

Each year in the United States, an estimated 2.1 million seniors are the victims of some form of abuse. Many elderly do not report the abuse or neglect. In fact, 1 in 6 doesn’t report. Unfortunately, abused elders die earlier than their well cared for counterparts. According to the Assisted Living Federation of America (ALFA), the maltreatment and abuse of the elderly is a significant problem among the elderly population in America. It is more common in women over age 80. Also, those who are abused are at a 300 percent increase of dying within three years.

Florida Nursing Homes Not Fined

Those deaths included a 91-year-old Sarasota woman who died vomiting her own fecal matter; an 87-year-old woman in Boynton Beach who investigators said died after staff crushed her ribs and punctured her lung; and an 84-year-old Jacksonville man who died from an infection that spread from his untreated, rotting genitals.

AHCA Doesn’t Act

In most verified cases, AHCA didn’t act. According to state inspection records, the agency only cited nursing homes for 15 of 43 death cases. Then, the agency only imposed fines in only 11 cases. In fact, most of the time, the agency did not investigate at all. One of those cases was the September 2015 death of Stacie O’Loughlin. The 38-year-old mother of four died from a septic infection at Governors Creek Health and Rehabilitation in Green Cove Springs near Jacksonville.

State records revealed that when a nursing staff’s actions lead to the death of a patient, it’s usually not the first time. In at least 25 cases, AHCA cited nursing homes for similar problems multiple times, yet little consequences besides small fines occured. 

This happened to a man in Jacksonville who was not washed following surgery for gangrenous genitals. He became so infected his skin was falling off. AHCA cited the home with violations three times in the year before the man’s death for not having enough staff to give patients regular showers or personal hygiene care. 

This isn’t a singular event. Many nursing homes showed a pattern of problems, and fatal errors including: failure to follow doctors orders, not conducting thorough investigations after untimely deaths, and failure to prevent patients from falling. Few of the violations resulted in fines or penalties.

Minimal Fines

When AHCA does take action against a nursing home after a death caused by staff mistreatment or neglect, fines are often small. The median fine imposed in the 11 death cases was $65,162. Four of the fines were under $20,000.

This dismal amount shows facilities that they don’t need to worry about AHCA enforcement. It is more cost-effective to not provide decent care. This makes more money.

For example, a rehab center in Boynton Beach had to pay nearly $400,000 in fines to the state and federal governments after staff broke a patient’s ribs and punctured her lungs. However, the AHCA recommended a $37,000 fine. 

Free Consultation

invokana damage

If you suspect abuse or neglect, do not accept denials. Instead, contact a knowledgeable lawyer experienced with representing victims. When an abuser injures a resident at a care facility, it is not always obvious what happened and legal liability.  The evidence available is often incomplete and may be self-serving for the defendant – the nursing home. This is why a free consultation with us is so important. We have been assisting the injured for 20 years. We help clients from all over the country. Our consultations are completely free. Call today.

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