As a result, the Long-term Care Ombudsman Program has been severely limited in its ability to carry out its mission to advocate for residents and their interests, the report added.
The federal report suggests the volunteer advocacy group has long been under the thumb of Florida governors administrations, which went so far as to forbid advocates from speaking publicly without clearing their messages in advance. The federal government says that policy violates the U.S. Older Americans Act, which governs long-term care ombudsmen.
In December 2009, for example, the programs state advisory council voted to call a news conference to push for improvements at an assisted living facility sources have told The Miami Herald the incident involved Miamis Munne Center after behind-the-scenes efforts had fallen short. The volunteer, retired U.S. Marine Corps. Col. Donald Hering, canceled the conference abruptly after his supervisors insisted that it was not to go ahead under any circumstances, the report said. The reason given for the instruction to cancel the news conference was that going ahead would embarrass the state Agency for Health Care Administration, or AHCA, which licenses and regulates ALFs and nursing homes and had repeatedly failed to act on Munne.
Hering, who was recently promoted to deputy state ombudsman, concluded that his job was on the line if the press conference went ahead, the report said.
In his reply to the report, Corley called a description of the event one-sided. The conference, Corley added, was needless because the ombudsman program was able to engender a collaborative effort between AHCA, the [elder affairs] department and the facility to resolve identified issues to the satisfaction of all parties.
But in April 2011, two years later, AHCA halted all new admissions to Munne, sought a permanent revocation of the homes license and imposed a $1,172.59 fine following a scathing 63-page inspection report that turned up a wave of ongoing violations: poor training of key employees; a failure to hospitalize residents with life-threatening pressure sores; searing temperatures inside the building; foul odors, filthy bathrooms, stained floors and broken furniture; and the homes habitual inability to keep track of its own residents.
One resident, for example, roamed from the ALF six times in six months. A resident, diagnosed with schizophrenia, was found lying in a ditch surrounded by ant hills. He had been bitten so many times by the insects that police had to take him to the hospital, the report said.
But the administration of Gov. Scott, the report says, has gone much further:
On Jan. 28, shortly after Scotts inauguration, the ombudsman programs director, Brian Lee described in the report by colleagues as the most dedicated public servant they had met was fired. Lees dismissal came shortly after he sent nursing homes a letter requesting ownership and financial information to which, under the new federal health care reform legislation, he was entitled.
Then, on Feb. 7, the report said, the governors office told elder affairs administrators that it was time for Mr. Lee to go. The program needed to go in a new direction. Days later, elder affairs leadership told the acting head of the ombudsman program that Lees letter to nursing homes needed to be fixed, the report added.