Proposed Constitutional Amendment to Protect Nursing Home Residents’ Rights

November 16, 2017

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A constitutional amendment to codify a “bill of rights” for nursing home and assisted living facility residents in the state of Florida was recently proposed to the Florida legislature. The purpose of this amendment would be to keep residents safe and to hold the nursing facilities accountable for any harm. It will strengthen the rights that have been taken away from nursing home residents over the past 20 years.

The proposal is intended to prevent tragedies like the one that happened after Hurricane Irma hit South Florida. In the devastating aftermath of this storm, 14 residents of the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, died as a result of overheating. The nursing lost air conditioning when the power failed. This “bill of rights” would allow victims to use the court system to recover for any injury, loss or damages by any abuse, neglect, negligence or violation of any rights by the nursing home or facility.

Because Florida has such a large population of senior citizens who live in these nursing homes and long-term care facilities, a standardized “bill of rights’ is necessary. Many of these residents have dementia and need this protection from neglect or abuse inside the facility. Holding the home liable would help ensure that the residents receive this necessary protection. It is important to note that this type of legislation is important, because although nursing homes are required to comply with federal and state standards, there is little recourse when they fail to do so. A bill of rights is not just about a standard of treatment, it is about holding the facility accountable and applying consequences when they fail to protect and care for their residents.

The Florida Health Care Association (FHCA), an advocacy group for nursing homes and facilities, has opposed the amendment, calling the proposal “glaringly bad” and claiming that the government would be overstepping its role in a situation where there is an injury. However, the FHCA advocates for assisted living facilities, nursing homes and those who care for the elderly and infirm. FHCA’s opposition has everything to do with their focus on the profits of their constituency, nursing homes, and long-term care facilities, rather than concern for the residents’ safety and guarantee of proper care.

The Constitution Revision Commission conducts a review of the state’s constitution every 20 years and suggests changes that should be made. In order for this amendment to become part of the state’s constitution, it must be put on the 2018 statewide ballot and approved by 60 percent of voters.

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Domnick Cunningham & Whalen

Domnick Cunningham & Whalen

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