Florida panel protects abusive assisted living facilities

Can you imagine a panel put together to do something about death and abuse in assisted living facilities that winds up doing the diametric opposite of what it was designed to do, and instead puts its energies into protecting assisting living facility operators? This is exactly what happened in Florida. The Tallahassee report on the matter in the Tampa Bay Times bears the much too polite heading, Gov. Rick Scott’s panel goes soft on ALF industry, critics say.

Gov. Rick Scott used tough language in the summer of 2011 when he created a panel to help fix the deadly abuse and neglect in Florida assisted living facilities.

Right, and now for the result.

In a change of tide, Scott’s panel issued its final report this week, calling for diminished transparency and fewer regulations. The panel calls for the state to better enforce existing rules rather than create new ones. And to give homes more money to raise their standards but not punish them through fines and other sanctions when they perform badly.

“Diminished transparency” means a continuing cover up, and “fewer regulations” means more neglect, abuse, and death. Rather than punishing the operators of bad assisted living faculties, in effect, this decision means rewarding them for their failures.

The article goes on to say, “not everyone is cheering”. Duh.

The panel was picked after a series of Miami Herald articles exposed the death and abuse taking place in assisted living facilities across the state. The back story is as follows.

The furor from the Herald series prompted Scott’s panel to offer a variety of solutions in 2011, from stricter educational requirements for ALF caretakers to more government oversight for facilities that cause patient harm. Those emerged shortly after the series was published and served as a foundation for sweeping legislation that lawmakers softened and then defeated in 2012, under pressure from powerful industry lobbyists.

In Florida, at least, it looks like those powerful industry lobbyists have won the day for the time being. This is bad news for people who seek to reform Florida’s broken assisted care system, and it is bad news for residents of assisted living facilities who may be subjected to abuse and neglect with no recourse to redress. The effect of this “final” decision is that people in assisted living faculties are going to be in no better shape than they were before an investigation revealed the extent to which they were abused, neglected, and dying. Certainly there have to be better courses of action to take than that of making a bad situation worse. Unfortunately, this is not the direction the state of Florida has chosen to take. If there is any silver lining to this situation, it is to be found in the fact that if the situation gets bad enough, the federal government will be forced to intervene.

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