As a lawyer who prosecutes claims against nursing homes for the abuse and neglect of the elderly and disabled, I am often asked about fines and penalties levied against nursing homes, and why the state agency responsible for licensing and inspecting nursing homes in Florida does not do more to address the documented problems that exist. The Florida Agency for Healthcare Administration inspects nursing homes each time a complaint is filed as well as on a nearly annual basis. Each of those visits results in an evaluation as to whether the nursing home is in substantial compliance with state and federal law. While these inspections routinely result in the citation of deficiencies against the nursing home under review, the imposition of fines does not appear to be so common. A review of fines levied against Port Charlotte, Punta Gorda and Englewood nursing homes between 2013 and 2016 in relation to those nursing home’s annual gross revenue reveals that such fines may amount to no more than a slap on the proverbial wrist.
The imposition of fines as sanctions should serve as a strong deterrent to future bad conduct on the part of nursing homes throughout Florida. While most of the eight (8) for-profit nursing homes located in Port Charlotte, Punta Gorda and Englewood each take in between $10 million and $15 million dollars of revenue per year, any fines that were levied amount to nothing more than a nuisance to these nursing home operators. Those fines are certainly inadequate when it comes to protecting our state’s most vulnerable adults and preventing nursing home abuse and neglect. Of those eight nursing homes located in Charlotte County, FL, between 2013 and 2016, only the following have been fined based on non-compliance with state and / or federal law:
Consulate Health Care of Port Charlotte $5,000.00
Signature Healthcare of Port Charlotte $10,000.00
Village Place Health and Rehabilitation Center $500.00
Common sense informs us that a $10,000.00 fine will have little to no deterrent effect on a nursing home corporation that is bringing in $12,000,000.00 per year – most of which is derived from taxpayer dollars through the Medicare and Medicaid programs. Arguably, private lawsuits brought by citizens against nursing home corporations who have abused and neglected their loved ones serve as a more powerful deterrent against future misconduct; however, these lawsuits can only be brought after a significant harm has occurred. A broader approach that serves the entire nursing home population would, perhaps, lower the incidence of nursing home abuse and neglect. So what can be done? Florida citizens who care about our elderly should contact their elected officials in Tallahassee and Washington D.C. and urge lawmakers to stiffen penalties for nursing home misconduct, rampant understaffing, nursing home abuse and neglect and poor care. By making it more financially painful for these nursing home operators to thumb their noses at the law, these facilities will become safer places for their short and long term residents.
Do you have questions about a Florida nursing home or would like to discuss a bad nursing home experience? Call me, Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer, James Keim, Toll Free at (844) 426-7900 for a free, confidential consultation.