News-Press had an article about the lack of enforcement, fines, and penalties for abuse and neglect in Florida’s nursing homes.   Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) is the department that oversees the state’s 687 nursing homes.  As the state agency responsible for making sure nursing homes are safe, AHCA rarely issues fines even when another state agency reports neglect, abuse, or mistreatment by a home’s staff.

And there is often no evidence AHCA even investigates those deaths, raising questions about whether nursing homes are held accountable when patients die from mistreatment.

“The industry complains about how punitive and horrible the system is and, in reality, almost nothing happens to any of them, no matter how bad the situation,” said Toby Edelman, senior policy attorney with the nonprofit Center for Medicare Advocacy in Connecticut.

As part of its investigation, the Network reviewed 54 patient deaths verified by the Department of Children and Families as resulting from nursing home neglect or mistreatment from 2013 through 2017. The deaths were detailed in reports on 43 cases, one involving multiple deaths. The state-verified findings of abuse and neglect by nursing home staff were sent to AHCA, which has the authority to take action against the homes.

In about three-quarters of the verified cases, or 32 of 43, AHCA took no action — no fine or penalty — against nursing homes after the state determined staff caused or contributed to a patient’s death.

 In nearly two-thirds of the cases, there’s no evidence AHCA investigated the deaths or the nursing home’s role. The agency admits it failed to investigate 10 cases, and in 18 others it’s not clear AHCA investigated because the deaths are not noted in inspection records.

 State reports show the neglect and mistreatment identified in the nursing home patients’ deaths often were not isolated occurrences and AHCA knew it. In at least 25 of the 43 cases, AHCA cited the nursing homes for similar problems.
USA TODAY NETWORK – FLORIDA has reported on how AHCA allows the state’s worst nursing homes to remain open despite repeatedly failing to meet state and federal standards; imposes small fines and rarely uses the sanctions available to penalize poor performers; and allows the state’s largest nursing home chain to thrive despite a history of poor patient care.

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