A slew of rapid-fire resignations at the Florida Ombudsman program, established under the federal Older Americans Act, has placed increasing doubt on the government agency’s ability to handle its duties.
Families for Better Care, a Florida nursing home watchdog, has issued a call for revision of the Ombudsman program in Florida after several recent nursing home abuse and neglect incidents. In one recent incident, a nursing home in Orlando allowed a male resident to sexually harass female residents and even employees, and to urinate in the hallways. This behavior continued for an extended period of time with near total impunity from the nursing home management. In another incident in a Melbourne nursing home, a wheelchair-bound woman fell down and struck her head on the ground. Nursing home employees failed to summon an ambulance and the injured woman died from her head injury.
The Ombudsman program is run through the use several paid staffers and hundreds of volunteers that are screened and trained to inspect nursing homes around the state. Watchdogs report that the government agency is understaffed and that the bureaucrats at the top of the organization are more interested in advancing their career and building their retirement accounts than ensuring that nursing home patients receive adequate care. This opinion is echoed by a former deputy in the Ombudsman’s office who recently abruptly retired. The former deputy stated that the volunteers do an excellent job overall, but that the lack of sound leadership is hampering the program.
Stock of nursing home companies has risen 415% since 2003, at twice the pace of the Dow Industrial Average. The increase in for-profit nursing homes may be partially to blame for the increase in cost-cutting measures that hurt patients and inflate the bottom line.
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