A recent initiative for Florida home surveillance relaxation could allow more nursing homes to get away with neglectful conditions. According to current Florida law, a nursing home cited for a Class 1 violation or multiple Class 2 violations will then be investigated by the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) every six months for the next two years.
Recently, however, two bills, Senate Bill 1726 and House Bill 731, have been proposed as part of a Florida home surveillance relaxation. Under these bills, the AHCA would only be required to make one additional inspection at poor-performing nursing homes within the two year period. Critics have stated that this would allow nursing homes to continue to get away with resident neglect without concern for regulatory action. AHCA leaders have responded that they feel that they already go into poorly-performing nursing homes frequently enough and want more flexibility in how many inspections they are required to conduct.
The Florida home surveillance relaxation bills would also lower the AHCA’s inspection fine from $6,000 to $3,000. So far, neither of the bills have received much pushback from a legislature that the Naples Daily News has described as “regulation-averse.” The AHCA’s sponsorship of the Florida home surveillance relaxation bill has been described as a component part of a broader push by the agency to give itself more flexibility in its workload across the health care spectrum.
In an interview regarding the Florida home surveillance relaxation, AHCA Secretary Mary Mayhew told reporters that the true motive behind the bills is to give AHCA the freedom to spend less time in good health care facilities and more time inspecting problem providers. Mayhew told reporters that the AHCA “wanted to make sure that as we look at our workload, that we are able to have a clear focus on higher-risk and poor performing providers,” as the state’s population and the number of health care providers increasingly strain the agency’s resources.
Detractors of the Florida home surveillance relaxation have pointed out that just because a nursing home is currently behaving well, there is no guarantee that the good behavior will persist without AHCA oversight. Florida State Representative Margaret Good of Sarasota brought up this exact point when she spoke at a February health care committee meeting saying “In my opinion, oversight and inspections are critical to ensuring quality care and that residents are safe.”
For more information about how to identify and report nursing home neglect, visit the National Association of Nursing Home Attorneys’ Neglect Page.