Residents complain about abuses in Tampa Bay nursing homes listen09/26/11 Andrea Lypka
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Recent reports of abuses in nursing homes have put Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) under a spotlight. The agency regulates 2,850 assisted-living facilities (ALF) in Florida. Several residents complained about abuses, neglect and other illegal activities in Tampa Bay nursing homes at a meeting organized by the Agency for Health Care Administration's Assisted Living Facility Governor’s Task Force on September 23 at University of South Florida.
One of the residents, Dionne Crouch currently lives at Janet Boston assisted-living facility in Tampa. She says it does not have a resident phone. Crouch says that she is not given her medicine as prescribed and has seen staff illegally consuming it.
Her ordeal continued after she called her ombudsman's office and finally the Agency for Health Care Administration.
“I was on the phone with them, going through what was happening and she [staff] came out and told me to get off the phone, I have been on the phone too long,” Crouch said. "The lady from AHCA heard her and told me to tell her that I was talking to a state agency and that I did not have to get off the phone. She (staff) went in the the house and unplugged the phone.”
She was given a 45 days notice to leave the nursing home because she complained to state agencies. Crouch came to Janet Boston assisted living facility after the one in Plant City she lived in was shut down by the Agency for Health Care Administration. Her story highlights a trend of abuse in nursing homes in Florida.
The report issued by The Agency for Health Care Administration in June 14 mentioned 44 facilities where illegal activities were reported, including The Abigail and Clearview Manor in Tampa, Peacekeepers Den Inc. and Tender Loving Care Retirement Residence in Lakeland and Loving Care of St. Petersburg. The last nursing home was given $16,500 in fines.
But some residents have a better life after speaking out against such abuses. One of them is Elvin Dozier.
“In 2006 I had an incident at the adult living facility, I got stabbed in the head by a staff member,” he said, but he did not want to name the facility first. “I really... It’s called Shady Oak Retirement, it's in Tampa.”
Now, thanks to a program called Project Return that helps people with mental illness lead a quality life, he has his own place.
“So what happened was that the staff member did not want to give it to me. To make a long story short, it got to a confrontation, it got physical, and I was like...stabbed. She stabbed me in the head with a writing pen. What happened was, that I had an operation because the tip of the pen was stuck in my head. I do not want this to happen to anybody else,” Dozier said.
Rose Delaney is director of the Florida Peer Network, a consumer-run organization that represents individuals affected by the policy decisions of the public and private mental health system.
“I am an individual who has mental illness diagnosis. When I heard about what was going on at the ALFs, I needless to say, was very appalled. I am a consumer advocate and I thought I really needed to be here to let folks know that we are also citizens of the state and we should be treated with respect and dignity,” she said.
Director of the Claude Pepper Center at Florida State University Larry Polivka chairs the workgroup on assisted-living that was appointed by Governor Rick Scott.
“I don't think it is a secret, some of this, a lot of the interest was kind of crystallized in the Miami Herald report, 13 stories-series, a lot of it I think it was reported in the St. Pete Timeslocally. I think a lot of people are concerned to what extent does this represent a pervasive problem or is it a much more limited problem. Even if it is limited, it is something we should not tolerate, it's something we should not tolerate, even if it is just a 1 percent issue,” Polivka said. “No one wants to run the risk of putting the loved ones at jeopardy.”
The goal of Assisted Living Facility Governor’s Task Force established in June is to develop recommendations to improve the state's ability to monitor quality and safety in assisted living facilities before issuing a report to the Florida legislature.
“What we are trying to do is determine how we can best address those issues without making assisted living unaffordable because of new standards,of new staffing standards,” Polivka said.”At this point what we are trying to do, as somebody mentioned at the meeting, this is a balancing act between improving regulations and improving enforcement and maintaining affordability for the service for this residential setting which is going to be becoming more important in the years ahead as Florida's older population increases about 50 percent by 2025.”
Their last meeting will be in November in Miami when the task force will make recommendations for penalties, frequency of inspections and preparation and training of the staff at assisted-living facilities.