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ALF panel hammers out small changes

After legislators and special interests shut down sweeping proposals to protect the elderly and disabled in assisted living facilities, a 15-member panel stepped forward with the hope of implementing small changes.

And, although the committee's bureaucrats, resident advocates and ALF administrators have a history of strife and vastly different interests, they did have some success.

The panel, which met six times, will submit a full report of their suggestions to the Florida Department of Elder Affairs by Aug. 22. If the recommendations survive public hearings and other rulemaking procedures, they will be written into statute.

The committee's recommendations include:
  • Administrators should complete 56 hours of training, up from 26 hours.
  • Assisted living facility administrators should meet increased competency test standards.
  • All administrators should be required to take competency tests. No exemptions.
  • Doctors who test incoming residents for contagious diseases should be specifically reminded to consider testing for tuberculosis.
  • Facilities, which already submit their plans to protect residents during disasters to Emergency Management Services, should also submit their plans to the Agency for Healthcare Administration, which oversees ALFs.

Because the panel can only work within existing statutes, it will also recommend changes to the governor's ALF task force. For example, the panel will suggest that administrators should be required to have a license.

The panel made progress, said resident advocate Brian Lee. But that falls short of the sweeping changes that are needed.

It's great that facilities have to submit a copy of their emergency management plans to AHCA, he said. But there's nobody to follow up and make sure those plans are enforced.

AHCA inspects facilities every two years, and emergency management is not a required part of the inspections.

"On paper, it's approved," he said. "But in reality, they're not prepared."

The thrust for change came after months of reporting by the Miami Herald that unveiled how an alarming lack of state oversight led to gross abuse and neglect.  Dangerous conditions led to at least 70 resident deaths since 2002, with regulators performing few inspections and imposing few penalties on the state's 2,850 facilities.

Yet, changes have largely been overwhelmed by the powerful ALF industry and its concerns about extra costs.





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