Given the high number of Florida residents who are aged 65 and older—including many who already reside in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities—it is particularly important to think about elder wellness and safety. According to a recent article in the Miami Herald, the state of Florida appears to have changed the content of some of its public records, in a sense “scrubbing its website” of nursing home neglect complaints and penalties.
Making Records Available to Families in Florida
The problem is not that records of nursing home neglect and abuse violations have been destroyed. Anyone can seek to obtain records like these from Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA). However, this is a complicated process, and many families who are looking for quality care for a loved one simply do not know that they have this option. And even if they do know this option is available, actually obtaining the documents can be difficult and time consuming.
Indeed, as the article explains, “you have to know what to ask for and whom to ask—and you may be required to pay and wait.” The state of Florida used to provide this information free of charge to people looking for information about facilities in the state. Instead, “AHCA now refers consumers to a separate website managed by the Federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, though that site does not include as much material as the state previously provided.”
Detailed Information that is Difficult to Obtain
What type of information, specifically, did AHCA used to provide for free to the public on its website? For quite some time, consumers could go onto the AHCA website and find detailed information about nursing home inspections, as well as inspections of retirement homes and hospitals in the state. They were easy to locate on the website, and they provided clear information to Floridians about incidents of elder abuse, neglect, and other related injuries.
However, the “scrubbing” of the website began with redactions to these documents. Specifically, AHCA started eliminating words such as “room”, “CPR”, “bruises” and “pain”—and rendering the inspections difficult to interpret for families trying to gauge whether a facility is suitable for a loved one. While AHCA indicated that the redactions were designed to protect patient privacy, elder safety advocates have voiced concerns about the agency’s aims given the types of redactions occurring.
Redacting Reports of Elder Abuse and Neglect
In fact, the state of Florida recently invested more than $20,000 in “redaction software that automatically blacks out words the agency says must be shielded from the public,” while those words (such as the ones we noted above) “were available on a federal website unredacted.” To be clear, elder advocates are concerned that “the newly censored detail did more to protect the homes than patients.”
Soon after the redactions started, the AHCA website changed. Most notably, all nursing home inspections reports, as we mentioned, were no longer available. While the state does provide comparative spreadsheets on nursing homes for Florida consumers, it no longer provides via the AHCA website the type of data that can help families locate a facility in which their loved ones are less likely to become victims of nursing home negligence.
Contact a West Palm Beach Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer
If you have questions about filing an elder abuse claim, Lesser Lesser Landy & Smith’s Partner Joseph Landy is a highly experienced nursing home neglect lawyer in West Palm Beach who ranked as one of the Top 10 Nursing Home Trial Lawyers for the State of Florida.