Newly elected Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) came under federal scrutiny last month when he fired the state’s long term care ombudsman, Briand Lee, who acts as the state’s top nursing home watchdog. Lee, considered an aggressive champion of patient’s rights, was the head of a mostly volunteer group of 400 ombudsman who are tasked with answering questions and fielding complaints of nursing home abuse. Lee’s transgression? He tried to take advantage of a provision in the federal Affordable Healthcare Act that requires nursing homes to disclose their ownership.
Gov. Scott rescinded Lee’s request and sacked him based on the recommendation of nursing home operators. The federal Administration on Aging may be investigating Gov. Scott for the action but the state legislature is moving forward with 20 bills designed to further weaken the ombudsman program, Orland Sentinel columnist Lauren Ritchie blogs:
Who needs pesky nursing-home snoop?
Target: old people who can’t dress themselves, control their bowels or stand up long enough to microwave a frozen dinner.
The most fragile of Florida’s elderly population live in nursing homes, and a slew of bills now skipping through the Legislature would muzzle even the most moderate of watchdogs who now investigate complaints about those long-term-care facilities.
When legislators are done, the only “watchdog” Florida will have guarding the industry is Buttercup the shaky Chihuahua without teeth. Bye-bye Kill’a the pit bull. All those who want even the smallest scrap of information about a nursing home for Grandma will be on their own to find it.
But, hey — there’s a bright side! Florida will be a lot friendlier without all that pesky regulation! Nobody will be spreading disturbing facts about how many complaints the local nursing home got for letting people lie for hours in their own waste. Yuck! We don’t really want to know that, anyway! It’s gross.
And won’t it be dandy when the free market starts humming happily along and just about any ol’ nursing home can get the state’s “Gold Seal” designation for excellence above the requirements! Thank heavens we’ll be slapping that award onto a nursing home regardless of whether it had substantiated complaints in the previous 2½years such as failure to help elderly patients when they repeatedly ask; odors of urine and feces; illegally confining patients; failure to contain infections; leaving residents unattended in bathrooms where they fall; exploiting the patient’s finances or stealing money; and drugging residents so they will stop that annoying whining for attention.
Everybody gets a Gold Seal! Line up! Yaaaay! Good for Florida! We gotta get business to come back, right? What better way than to proclaim everyone a winner?
You might wonder how this can happen, but really, in a society that worships youth and denigrates old age it should come as no surprise when the rights of older adults are disregarded or violated. The National Consumer Voice, which oversees the National Long-Term Care Ombudsman program, helped generate the federal investigation into Lee’s sacking and is monitoring the situation in Florida.