Florida Scores an “F” on Nursing Home
 Staffing Report

Watchdog group report reveals conditions that can lead
to abuse and neglect in Florida Nursing Homes.

Nursing Homes in Florida came in 41st out of 50 states concerning their professional nurse staffing in a new nationwide nursing home report card complied by an advocacy group in Florida – Families for Better Care. The report also detailed that over 90% of all nursing homes in Florida have been cited for one or more deficiencies. In addition, the report listed how Florida Nursing Homes plunged from an “A” grade last year in Above Average Health Inspections to just a “C” this year.

Nursing home staffing can be a major indicator for the quality of health care that is being delivered. Understaffing is often the cause of nursing home neglect in Florida. Many studies over the years have shown that the number of hours of care that a resident receives is a direct correlation to the quality of care that each receives. In fact, it takes just an additional 22 minutes of direct nursing care per patient to raise a below average amount of care to an acceptable quality amount of care.

One of the problems concerning staffing data is that it is being self-reported by the nursing homes and is never audited by any type of third party. This means that a clear, unbiased picture of the amount of nursing care the patients are receiving is not being provided. It is very possible that fewer minutes of quality care are being given than are being reported, increasing the risk of nursing home neglect in Florida.

Many times it is a budget crunch that is preventing the hiring of additional high quality nursing staff. Overworked staff members are a frequent cause of nursing home abuse. One solution to this problem is the hiring of aides to perform more of the routine tasks, thereby freeing up registered nurses for the more difficult or important jobs, but this can lead to medical errors as less trained staff takes on more of the caregiving.

Despite ranking an “F” in Professional Nurse Staffing, and only a “C” on critical criteria such as Direct Care Staffing, Facilities with Deficiencies, Health Inspections and nursing hours per resident, Florida was ranked the 6th best state in the country for nursing home care. With the facilities reporting their own staffing levels, unverified by a third party, Florida consumers are justified in their concerns about the amount and type of care actually being provided.

Brian Lee, a former long-term care ombudsman for the State of Florida, founded the Families for Better Care organization. This is a watch dog group operating out of Tallahassee that seeks to elevate the level of care and reduce cases on nursing home abuse and neglect in Florida and across the country. Lee noted that this second annual report on nursing homes shows that a number of improvements should be made. He feels that the first priority should be the additional hiring of professional nursing home staff to properly train and supervise the front staff to deliver the quality care that is necessary and expected.

The State of Florida has even more bad news according to the Nursing Home Report Cards report. It shows that almost 20% of the nursing homes in Florida are on the state’s watch list for dangerous nursing home conditions.

The watch list shows nursing homes that are currently under bankruptcy protection or fall under a conditional status during the last two and a half years. A conditional status means that the particular facility meets the minimum state standards during an inspection, or they failed to bring themselves up to standards during a follow-up inspection after failing an initial inspection. There is a provision that allows the State of Florida to take immediate action in the case of a threat to the safety or the health of facility residents. You should also be aware that nursing homes have the right to protest the conditional finding, and if that occurs, their status will show, “Under Appeal.”

Nursing home abuse, neglect and negligence in Florida can be devastating to the resident and families that are involved. In the Aristocrat Nursing Home in Naples, Robert Bernard, 90, died due to nursing home neglect at the facility that was meant to be protecting and serving him. According to the report from the State of Florida Agency of Healthcare Administration, Bernard died after being left in the blistering heat under the Florida sun for hours. The 43-page report determined that the Aristocrat had no policy in place for the dealing with patients if they were physically outside their building. Video surveillance was recovered that documented the tragedy. The video showed that a nurse did come outside to check on him at one point, but then left not to return for another two hours. The next time someone came out to him, he was found to have sunburn and a temperature of 105 degrees which led to his death from cardiac arrest.
Three nurses that had been assigned to him were later fired from their jobs. New procedures are now in place at the Aristocrat to deal with such situations. Public records show that the Aristocrat nursing home has a history of multiple fines for abuse and neglect of patients. Penalties for this incident could include another fine or the loss of Medicare privileges. A recent inspection for the Aristocrat showed that they were in compliance with appropriate regulations for the State of Florida.

The advocacy group, Families for Better Care, recommends a plan of action to improve the care provided in Florida nursing homes. They suggest “immediate and decisive action” to change the conditions for the better. One of the most important changes that needs to be made, they say, is to have tough changes in staffing standards improved. Even increasing the enforcement of current staffing levels could make significant improvements in the care of nursing home residents.