Florida’s largest nursing home provider is again facing a quarter-billion-dollar judgment for fraud that company leaders have said could cause its “immediate economic extinction.” An appeals court last week affirmed part of a jury’s finding that Consulate Health Care, which operates a tenth of all Florida nursing homes, systematically defrauded the government by providing medically unnecessary treatments to patients. While calling the judgment “huge,” one industry watcher predicted that Consulate homes will continue operating, even if the company continues to appeal the ruling or files for bankruptcy. But a union that covers health care workers said patient care could suffer and workers could be left without sufficient protective gear as COVID-19 ravages long-term care facilities nationwide.
Brian Lee, former head of Florida’s Long-Term Care Ombudsman program, called the $255 million judgment that was reinstated on June 25 “a very serious penalty. Lee said he suspects Consulate’s nursing homes will remain open, but if the judgment sticks he worries people who live and work in the facilities will “feel the pinch of this down the line.” In 2018, an investigation found that a majority of Consulate nursing homes in the state received below-average ratings from federal regulators.
The Nursing Home Reform Act under Title IV: of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1987 created uniform guidelines for long-term care facilities receiving federal Medicaid and Medicare funding that grant all nursing home residents the rights to maintain and receive adequate nutrition, personal hygiene, mental and emotional support, and social involvement. Nursing home abuse can occur during various daily living situations through methods of verbal abuse, sexual abuse, physical abuse, mental abuse, involuntary seclusion, and unintentional abuse.
- When staff shortages occur, unintentional abuse may follow – warning signs may include developing bed sores, exacerbation of conditions like diabetes due to changes in medication, diet and exercise, frequent falls, or poor hygiene such as lack of bathing, or brushing teeth.
- Nursing homes may be liable for negligence in care via unintentional abuse, leading to a decline in a resident’s physical health, and can be sued for monetary compensation for the abuse, or neglect.
Act against abuse.
If you suspect nursing home abuse, or negligence and notice severe signs that may be life threatening or emergent, call 911. If you are still concerned about the safety of your loved one, you may contact the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) who routinely handle nursing home complaints. You can call (888) 419-3456 or file a complaint online.
Hire a lawyer.
Contact an attorney who has experience in nursing home abuse if you think legal action is required for abuse or violations of resident rights at a Florida nursing home. There may be multiple parties named in that suit, including an owner corporation, the individual site administration, and patient care workers.