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Whittling away at Florida's watchdog program for the elderly?

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For the past two years, Florida’s Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program (LTCOP) has been
bombarded with negative press as a “weakened” and “crippled” program, claims the program vigorously declined in a summer news release.  But a proposal by two Florida lawmakers to do away with the elderly watchdog program's district councils, along with their monthly publuic meetings, could add to the negative perceptions, the Florida Current reports.

While Sen. Nancy Detert and Rep. Ken Roberson made the proposal as a way of streamlining the watchdog program for the elderly, its former head Brian Lee countered that ending those public meetings mean one less forum where complaints against long-term care facilities can be aired and discussed.  

In 2011, state long-term care ombudsmen -- assisted by hundreds of local ombudsmen programs and thousands of volunteers – responded to 204,000 complaints nationwide, according to Kaiser Health News. The complaints ranged from roommate conflicts to lack of privacy to allegations of abuse or neglect.

Despite the ombusmens' important function, conflicts have erupted with state governments and powerful nursing lobbies. More ombudsman groups, especially those under state government authority, have been muzzled, KHN writes. 

Among the controversies in recent years, Florida's ombudsman, long considered a thorn in the long-term care industry’s side, was ousted in 2011 under Gov. Rick Scott's orders. In a state Senate hearing and a federal Administration on Aging investigation, the move raised "troubling concerns” that Florida had violated the spirit of the Older Americans Act that created the ombudsman program,  reports KHN. 

Ombudsmen can’t impose sanctions or levy fines, but the law requires them to investigate complaints and advocate for improvements to the long-term-care system. They usually refer serious violations to state licensing officials.

Ombudsmen are also required to report whether they have visited long-term care facilities at least quarterly to find out how residents are doing. In 2011, ombudsmen visited 70 percent of all nursing homes and about 33 percent of all board and care and assisted living centers at least once every three months.

While local ombudsmen across the country have the freedom to help individuals, it’s a more slippery slope when it comes to state ombudsmen advocating publicly on long-term care issues, writes KHN. Most are part of state government, as in Florida.   

Brian Lee was Florida’s state ombudsman for almost eight years until he was forced to resign. In January 2011, Lee asked Florida’s nursing homes to provide his office with detailed corporate ownership information, citing a provision in the new Affordable Care Act. Less than two weeks later, he was removed from his post. 

While Florida officials said Lee’s departure was part of normal turnover, the state retracted his request for nursing home corporate ownership information four days after he was ousted.  Read the story.

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Brenda

So the Government set them up to fail and is now blaming them for failing even though it wasn't there fault. Way to go Rick.

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