A new version of a constitutional “Bill of Rights’ for residents of Florida nursing homes and assisted living facilities was recently approved by a review committee.
The Declaration of Rights Committee approved the proposal (P88) by a vote of 5-2, sending it to the full Constitution Revision Commission for consideration.
However, the legislation was criticized by the Florida Health Care Association, which represents nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and others who care for the elderly and people with disabilities. The association took issue with payments by Medicaid.
“In reality, it is nothing more than an avaricious ploy by trial lawyers to profit from increased lawsuits against nursing centers,” said Emmett Reed, the association’s executive director, in a statement.
The proposal was proposed by Commissioner Brecht Heuchan after a South Florida nursing home lost air conditioning during Hurricane Irma in September 2017. That resulted in 14 residents’ deaths (although not all the deaths at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills were connected to the lack of AC at the building). Nonetheless, Broward County authorities deemed 12 of the deaths to be homicides.
This prompted Florida Governor Rick Scott to demand that all nursing homes and assisted-living facilities in the state install sufficient backup generators and have 96 hours of fuel on site to keep temperatures safe in case of power failure. That proposal resulted in months of lawsuits and negotiations by the industry before reaching an agreement in February 2018.
Details of the Bill
The Bill of Rights includes a provision for a “right to a safe, clean, comfortable, and homelike environment.” This would protect residents from “extreme climatic conditions and natural disasters,” a nod toward the deaths that occurred during Hurricane Irma. The bill also contains a “right to know and hold accountable all persons or entities who either directly or indirectly own or operate the facilities.”
But the Florida Health Care Association believes that the bill of rights “undermine(s) the hard work of thousands of health care professionals who provide outstanding care for some of Florida’s most vulnerable citizens. Existing state and federal laws guarantee the rights of nursing center residents, and these laws have been working well to support the advances in quality that are being made in Florida nursing centers today.”
Reed also remarked that Florida “is among the best in the nation in nursing and Certified Nursing Assistants staffing ratios; that reforms in 2001 led to more systemic approaches to delivering care … and that new federal rules announced in November make major updates in residents’ rights, care planning, quality assurance, and assessments.”
After the review meeting, Commissioner Heuchan said he would still consider changes to the bill’s language but believes that the current version is “a step in the right direction.”
“People that live in nursing homes have (fewer) rights than people who don’t,” he told panel members. “It’s unconscionable.”
In the end the effort was withdrawn by the sponsor as in their view the compromises needed to get the proposal passed were to much. To learn more you can read this Miami Herald article now.
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