12,000+ Floridians demand nursing home investigation

TALLAHASSEE – Today, advocates delivered petition signatures from more than 12,000 concerned Floridians urging the Florida Legislature to launch an investigation into Gov. Rick Scott and his administration’s role in the tragedy that led to the avoidable deaths of 14 Florida nursing home residents following Hurricane Irma. 

The signatures were delivered by advocates from CREDO, AFSCME Florida, For Florida’s Future, Florida Alliance for Retired Americans and Progress Florida. The petition, delivered to House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron, urges the Florida Legislature to investigate Gov. Scott and his administration’s role in the preventable deaths at Hollywood Hills Nursing Home following Hurricane Irma. The petition signatures were collected by Progress Florida and CREDO.

The 14 elderly Floridians died unnecessarily after they were left in the suffocating heat of their nursing home with no power in the days following the hurricane. Several calls for help to Gov. Scott were sent to voicemail, then deleted, and no help was sent.

"Rick Scott didn't just delete his voicemails – he deleted the regulatory safeguards that protected Florida's nursing home patients," said Brandy Doyle, Campaign Manager at CREDO Action. "This administration has done far more to look after nursing home profits than nursing home residents. We need an independent investigation to avoid future tragedy." 

“It’s no surprise Floridians are demanding answers to this given the clear pattern of negligence by the Scott Administration when it comes to oversight of our state's nursing homes,” said David Jacobsen, President of Northwest Florida AFSCME Retiree sub-chapter 43. “Gov. Scott’s failure to respond to desperate calls for help from the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills and subsequent deletion of voice messages only begs more questions, and now thousands of Floridians are demanding answers.” 

“It is this pattern of neglect on Gov. Scott’s watch that demands our representatives and senators in Tallahassee launch an investigation,” said Barbara DeVane, Secretary of the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans. “Given the Hollywood Hills tragedy, the Legislature simply cannot ignore the systemic lack of oversight of Florida’s nursing homes under this governor.”

This isn't about one bad nursing home or one unique natural disaster – this is about a systemic problem in Florida's health care system," said Dale Ewart, Regional Vice President of SEIU United Health Care Workers East. "We need to ask why nursing home owners that have a history of malfeasance are even allowed to operate health care facilities. Floridians deserve accountability and transparency. Governor Scott has to answer why steps are not being taken to assure more transparency and accountability, why for-profit nursing home chains are currently positioned for a windfall if the Governor and his allies in the legislature move forward with their new nursing home payment system.” 

INTERVIEW AVAILABILITY: Interviews can be arranged by phone with Brandy Doyle, Campaign Manager for CREDO Action, David Jacobsen, President of Northwest Florida AFSCME Retiree sub-chapter 43, Barbara DeVane, Secretary of the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans, former Florida Elder Care Ombudsman Brian Lee and Dale Ewart, Regional Vice President of SEIU United Health Care Workers East. 

The disorganized response to Hurricane Irma and the tragedy that unfolded at The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills are part of a more disturbing trend. 

Since Gov. Scott took office in 2011, he has done everything in his power to weaken the oversight and regulation of Florida’s nursing homes – perhaps not surprising given that apart from himself and the Republican Party, his top donor is serial offender nursing home chain Consulate Health Care.

Gov. Scott fired Brian Lee, the Elder Care Ombudsman under Gov. Jeb Bush and Gov. Charlie Crist, who fought for greater transparency from the nursing home industry. A federal investigation found that Scott violated the law by interfering in a supposedly independent agency to fire Lee. Scott then replaced Lee with a series of nursing home industry allies and the number of cases referred to investigating agencies fell by more than half

In an excruciating example of the kind of “enforcement” being done by the Scott administration, the owner of the nursing home where 14 Floridians died had recently been cleared to accept new patients at another facility he owned. The other facility, Floridian Gardens Assisted Living Facility, had a history of egregious safety violations that “included sexual assault of patients, low staffing and ignoring patients.”