The only nursing home in the Lower Keys was forced to close its doors Dec. 11 after it lost its Medicare/Medicaid funding. The Miami Herald reported that the Key West Convalescent Center had its provider number revoked by the government agencies after almost four years of consistently negative reports on the center. The most recent report, conducted by the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, found that residents were in “immediate jeopardy” from abuse as well as safety and administrative violations. The abuse cited includes verbal abuse, physical roughness and ignoring residents’ requests.
The closing uproots 78 residents. The only other home in the county, which is owned by the same parent company, has room for about 20 of them. The Herald article quotes several people -- one a resident -- who deny that there was abuse at the home. However, it also quotes family members of two other residents who suggest that the problems with the home stem from the parent company’s inaction rather than actions by the staff. If that’s the case, moving residents to the parent company’s other home in the Keys may not fix the problems. One man said he had seen years of failure to fix broken or dilapidated beds, wheelchairs and other equipment. This may not constitute nursing home abuse in Florida, but in many cases, it is clearly a form of nursing home neglect.
Although I sympathize with concerns about moving sick and fragile patients, I believe closing a home with such consistent neglect is the right move. As a Florida nursing home neglect lawyer, I know that neglect can make existing health problems worse or create new ones that complicate the patient’s overall health situation. Preventing bedsores, one of the most common injuries from nursing home neglect, requires staff to help disabled patients change positions every two hours. If a home is understaffed or otherwise underfunded by its parent company, these tasks may be pushed to the wayside simply because staff is overwhelmed by work. The result is that helpless patients suffer, and that is unacceptable.
Nursing home abuse and neglect in Florida make headlines because they victimize the most helpless among us -- the elderly, the ill, the disabled and people who cannot speak. As a state nursing home regulator told the Miami Herald, there should be zero tolerance for that behavior in Florida. When nursing homes and their staff abuse, exploit or neglect patients, victims and their families have a right to hold them legally responsible with a Florida nursing home abuse lawsuit (in addition to any criminal charges). Cohn, Smith & Cohn can help. If you believe someone you love is a victim and you’d like to learn more about your rights and your options, please contact us today for a free consultation.