State Legislators Look to Increase Regulations on Nursing Homes
Protecting the welfare and health of nursing home residents is the primary responsibility of nursing home providers, but recent events earlier this year revealed that these facilities do not always have the safety of residents in mind. A number of Democrat lawmakers proposed new regulations to fill-in gaps they perceive as leading to the death of more than a dozen residents in the wake of Hurricane Irma. Nursing homes have a legal duty to act with reasonable care when making resident-related decisions and monitoring staff, and the failure to do so can constitute nursing home abuse, which is grounds for legal action. While loved ones can check in and visit residents on a regular basis, they cannot be there at all times to oversee how staff is treating their family members. This trust and reliance is a central component of moving a loved one to a nursing home, and these facilities need to be held accountable if that trust is broken. The recently-proposed bills focus on regulating what many see as systemic problems with oversight and repercussions when issues are identified. An overview of the legislation, and what it could mean for future incidents of nursing home abuse, will follow below.
One of the main challenges faced by family members and guardians for individuals living in nursing homes is the inability to know what is going on at any given time. In an attempt to help family members and guardians keep a better eye on residents, and with an eye toward the safeguards used in child day care programs, the proposed legislation would allow for the installation of video and/or audio devices in a resident’s room, which would aid in identifying incidents of abuse and neglect as soon as possible. The expense of the monitoring would be the responsibility of the resident, a guardian or other representative, and would be voluntary. Further, a nursing home administrator would not be permitted to deny admittance of a resident based upon the desire to install electronic monitoring, or block the installation of these devices, and actions to the contrary could result in criminal charges.
The long-term care ombudsman program is a state agency that was created to advocate for the safety and health of nursing home residents, and is supposed to investigate claims of abuse or neglect and violations of state and federal law, when reported. The new legislation would give this program more autonomy to take action, and would be run by a nonprofit third-party organization. Undercover evaluations by the ombudsman program would also be permitted, allowing personnel to pose as residents or employees for the purpose of monitoring patient safety, including evidence of abuse or neglect and compliance with state and federal law. Further, it would mandate compliance with federal law and regulations, and violations of these provisions would constitute a declaration of negligence against the facility, which would make it easier for an injured resident to recover compensation. Importantly, the proposed legislation should make it easier to hold nursing homes accountable for negligent or reckless behavior, by adding the requirement that each facility have liability coverage, a provision which should eliminate limits on punitive damage awards in cases of particularly egregious conduct.
Contact a Florida Personal Injury Attorney
Harm to a loved one living in a nursing home is one of the worst situations a family can experience. These facilities cannot be allowed to get away with this behavior, and filing a personal injury lawsuit against them should send a message that what happened is not acceptable. The Miami law firm of Pita Weber & Del Prado understands the stress and emotion of these cases, and will fight to get your family the compensation it deserves. Contact us for a free consultation.