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Deregulation and Accountability

Published on September 26th, 2017

Democracy Now had an article blaming deregulation and lack of enforcement on the 9 deaths at Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.  Florida Governor Rick Scott has now directed the Agency for Health Care Administration to terminate the nursing home as a Medicaid provider.   It is incredible that Rick Scott blames everyone except himself.  See article at Miami Herald stating that Governor Scott deleted the messages from the nursing home begging for his help.

Scott gave out his number to nursing homes and assisted living facilities ahead of the hurricane so administrators could report concerns, according to a timeline released by Scott’s office. In the days following Irma, the staff at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills called four times. But the messages they left the governor were ignored and then deleted.

New details about the nursing home include the fact a number of safety violations had already been reported at the facility, including two violations about its backup power capabilities—this was before the storm. However, Scott’s administration did nothing.

Unapproved work was done without city permits to the air conditioning and back-up generator systems.  City building officials say they discovered a temporary generator had been placed outside the facility and wired into the building without the necessary city permits.  The city also says officials discovered the air conditioning cooling tower was replaced without a permit — also a violation of the city’s building code.

Florida Power & Light refused to speed up its response to senior living facilities because Scott never listed nursing homes as critical facilities in power outages.

The main owner of the nursing home, Dr. Jack Michel, also has a history of running afoul of healthcare regulators. In 2006, the Justice Department fined another hospital that Michel runs, the Larkin Community Hospital, $15.4 million over civil fraud allegations.

“And it raises questions and concerns, not just about what happened in this particular situation, but how all nursing homes in Florida are regulated, and whether we’re going to require accountability and transparency, and whether nursing home owners, like the owner of this particular facility, that have a history of abuse should even be allowed to operate healthcare facilities. Certainly, things like putting them higher up on the FPL list and requiring facilities to have standby generators that would run air conditioning systems would make a whole lot of sense in a place like Florida. But there are broader questions about what we’re willing to allow nursing homes to get away with and what kind of accountability we want to have for the billions of dollars in public money that supports this industry.”

“The problem is that nursing homes are funded by our tax dollars; 70, 80 percent of the revenue that supports this industry is our money through Medicaid and Medicare. And it is simply not appropriate to have an industry that’s on the public dole. I mean, I would say we should question whether it’s appropriate to have an industry that takes care of frail elderly people that is run by for-profit corporations. But if we’re going to do that, then we have to have appropriate regulation that makes sure that staffing levels are sufficient to provide quality care and that nursing home operators are accountable for the money they receive and for standards of care. And that’s a problem that, you know, is not—that’s a day-to-day, 365-day-a-year problem, not just in natural disasters like this.”

“Most of the hands-on care that’s done in nursing homes is done by certified nursing assistants. And they, tragically, subsidize this industry through poverty-level wages and poor healthcare and retirement benefits. It’s a labor of love, but it is a crime that we ask our nursing home residents and our nursing home caregivers to subsidize the activities of for-profit corporations.”

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