Florida’s new policy for redacting nursing home reports may make what’s going on in these facilities a mystery says Boca nursing home abuse lawyer Joe Osborne.
The State of Florida, which investigates complaints of abuse and neglect and issues reports after these investigations, is accused of leaving out so much information on these public reports that they are of little use to those who want to know what’s going on in these facilities. Boca nursing home abuse lawyer Joe Osborne says this trend may make it easier for nursing homes and assisted living facilities to avoid being held accountable for mistreating residents.
The Orlando Sentinel, in an article published last month, stated that if you want to look at public records concerning a nursing home or assisted living facility where you might place a loved one, you may find so much information redacted that the reports have little or no practical use. Dates, places and words describing what happened may be removed from public view.
Brian Lee of Families For Better Care based in Austin, Texas, a watchdog group focused on the welfare of nursing home and assisted living facility residents, called Florida’s heavily censored reports “shocking.” Lee told the newspaper he first noticed more information was being withheld starting late last year. Lee also said someone reading a report may not be able to make any sense of what went on.
The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration (FAHCA), the agency creating the reports, denied that allegation. The Sentinel states the reason they gave for the redaction is to protect personal health information as required by federal privacy laws. The agency’s press secretary stated if the information wasn’t redacted someone may be able to connect it with publically available information to identify protected health information.
The agency provided the Sentinel an internal email from December referring to a “new redaction process” which is being done by an automated process which may have eliminated more information than necessary. The agency official stated they were working on improving the quality of the redactions.
The FAHCA routinely inspects the state’s 683 nursing homes annually and once every two years for Florida’s more than 3,000 assisted living facilities. There are additional investigations when serious complaints are filed. Reports from the investigation are normally posted online on FloridaHealthFinder.gov.
The Sentinel quoted Lee as saying,
“I haven’t seen anything this blatant, as far as the disregard of the public records laws, as what’s coming out of the Agency for Health Care Administration right now,” he said. “And their attitude is very nonchalant, that this is just a computer glitch. It’s crazy — and, most importantly, it’s a disservice to residents and their families.”
These reports can be helpful when we investigate possible neglect and abuse at a nursing home or assisted living facility and the state needs not only to be concerned about privacy, but also the safety of residents. Incident reports that look like Swiss cheese also won’t help families choose safe facilities for their loved ones to try to avoid abuse and neglect before it starts.
If you or a loved one have suffered an injury caused by neglect or abuse at a nursing home or assisted living facility in the South Florida area, contact Boca Raton nursing home abuse lawyer Joe Osborne at (561) 293-2600 or fill out this online contact form. You can discuss your case, how the law may apply and your best legal options to protect your rights and obtain compensation for your loved one’s injuries.