The Orlando Sentinel had an article about the need for enforceable Resident Rights in Florida (and elsewhere!).  Because of facilities with track records of putting their patients in danger, some advocates and industry experts want to change the Florida Constitution, adding a nursing home and assisted-living facility residents’ bill of rights. Doing so, they say, would not only add more protections, but it also would shield residents from state legislators and presidential administrations that might roll back existing regulations under pressure from the nursing home industry.

The public is completely in the dark about what happens in some of these facilities,” said Brian Lee, a former nursing-home watchdog for the state who now heads the national advocacy group Families for Better Care. “Even the tragedy of 12 nursing home residents dying from neglect after Hurricane Irma — deaths that were categorized as homicides — has not been enough to shame the industry into making changes.”

The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills in South Florida was evacuated Sept. 13 after power was knocked out by the storm and temperatures inside soared. A dozen elderly residents ultimately succumbed to heat exposure; one had a body temperature of 109.9 degrees. That facility is still fighting to keep its license.

It also prompted the governor to ask the state’s Constitution Revision Commission — which examines the Florida Constitution every 20 years for possible changes — to look at whether there are ways that the document could offer better protection for residents of long-term care facilities.

Proposal 88 establishes the right for residents to be treated “courteously, fairly and with the fullest measure of dignity,” given “adequate and appropriate health care” and live in “a safe, clean, comfortable and homelike environment” with “reasonable precautions” against natural disasters and extreme climatic conditions. , which is now being aired in public hearings throughout the state. If approved by the commission, it would go before voters in November.

It also says residents have the right to access courts, have speedy trials and sue without limitations for damages, that they can’t be asked to waive those rights, and that the facilities must carry liability insurance sufficient to ensure that residents and their families are “justly compensated.”

The industry as a whole is adamantly opposed to any such language in the state’s Constitution — even though some of the rights are already part of laws previously enacted by the Florida Legislature and the proposal doesn’t spell out the consequences for nursing homes that don’t comply.

Record-setting bed valuations, billions in guaranteed revenues and robust profit margins have pushed the senior care market to become one of the fastest growing, most highly profitable health care sectors.

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