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Controversy, and High Scores, at FL Nursing Homes

Nurse escorts elderly man using walker
Wikimedia Commons
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Even as Florida nursing homes received an above-average score from a consumer group, questions continued to swirl around the departure of three of the leaders of the nursing home ombudsman program who had helped achieve the score. 

The Department of Elder Affairs, where the ombudsman program is housed, came in for sharp criticism in the past six weeks since it initiated an investigation of the ombudsman program's staff and volunteer leaders. The agency fired off a press release late last week defending itself against "an onslaught of negative press."

One leader of the Long Term Care Ombudsman Program who left,  former deputy director Don Heming, said he resigned rather than cooperate with an internal investigation of how the ombudsman leaders were handling the move of Medicaid nursing home patients into managed care plans, The News Service of Florida reported. Heming said he had hoped the ombudsman program's staff and volunteers could help reduce the confusion that is bound to arise for patients.

Florida Medicaid began the shift of low-income elderly Medicaid patients into HMOs on Aug. 1 with four counties in Central Florida. Each month more will be added. Some press coverage has noted that the upheaval in leadership of the ombudsman program could hardly come at a worse time.

But Elder Affairs' press release gave a sharp response: "For the past two years, Florida’s long-term care ombudsman program has been bombarded by an onslaught of negative press which has cast a shadow over the hard work of its staff and volunteers. Increasingly over the past few weeks, attacks have been used to publicly bemoan an imagined decline of Florida’s ombudsman program and to spread gross misrepresentations of program policies and decisions.”

The report card on nursing home care that awarded Florida a B was produced by a non-profit consumer group led by a former ombudsman who was ousted, Brian Lee. Sarasota Herald-Tribune has more information on that.

Meanwhile, Disability Rights Florida has filed a motion to intervene in a lawsuit the federal government is waging against the state for its practice of placing disabled children in nursing homes, the Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureaureports.

Originally founded in December 2006 as an independent grassroots publication dedicated to coverage of health issues in Florida, Health News Florida was acquired by WUSF Public Media in September 2012.