“We have created a new system to help ensure that every child in our care — except in extremely sensitive medical situations — can live in a home setting where they can receive the same attention and love that every child deserves,” he added.
The lion’s share of Golden Glades’ children, however, are headed to other nursing homes. Of the 19 who remained on Thursday, Weems said the parents of 15 of the “child patients have chosen continuing residential pediatric care for their children.”
Gwen Wurm, a University of Miami pediatrician who has been working with child welfare administrators to recruit foster parents who are willing to care for severely disabled children in home settings, called the transfer of the children into yet another nursing home unfortunate.
“This is an absolute missed opportunity,” said Wurm, who heads the medical foster care program for Jackson Health Systems. “They should have . . . met with every parent and every family to come up with an array of services that made it possible to allow more of those children to be in a home. It is best for children to be in a home setting, with a loving family — if that’s possible. It also is possible to save money that way.”
Durell Peaden Jr., a Panhandle doctor who served in the Florida Senate from 2000 to 2010, most of them spearheading issues related to medical care, said the state needed to “redesign” its system of care for medically fragile children to promote greater use of community-like settings.
“You can’t keep just cutting the budget so that children are sequestered away and deposited in institutions,” said Peaden, who is a Republican from Crestview. “That’s just from the standpoint of a country doctor.”
Golden Glades had hoped to make its pediatric wing a model for the treatment of medically fragile children, Weems said.
“Our primary goal was to make substantial improvements to the facilities and to the care in the pediatric unit so that the extremely ill children had a much higher quality of care, a safe environment, and a place where they were easily accessible to their families,” Weems said. “When they approached me initially, they wanted to make massive structural improvements, to add a playground, and to change the facilities dramatically so that it was much more fun and age-appropriate.”
Weems declined to specify why the new owners opted, instead, to close the unit, except to say that it was “due to changing circumstances and policy decisions, and after extensive cooperation and input from policy-makers and key agencies.”
In business for only about a half-year, the ownership group, Kabirhu Associates, confronted a litany of problems, many of which began long before they took over.
In September 2011, federal health regulators imposed the largest Florida nursing home fine in recent memory, $300,000, in connection with the death of a severely disabled 14-year girl, Marie Freyre, who perished only hours after being admitted to the home when caregivers neglected to give her life-sustaining anti-seizure drugs. Her story was highlighted in a series of Miami Herald stories.
Teenager Bryan Louzada, who died at the home in July 2010, also was the subject of a Herald story on the state’s warehousing of disabled children in nursing homes.
Late last month, ACHA imposed at least $7,500 in additional fines as part of a settlement agreement over Marie’s death.