Articles Posted in Day Care Abuse and Neglect Cases

The spotlight was once again on Florida’s nursing homes last month when WFTV 9 exposed the battering of a Southern Oaks Health Care Facility Alzheimer’s patient by one of the St. Cloud facility’s nurses. The nurse was arrested on felony abuse charges when police acted on an eyewitness account of the nurse delivering a belly blow to the helpless female patient. In its investigative reporting, WFTV uncovered a long history of patient-care and safety violations at this facility, some of which had resulted in a fine exceeding $25,000.

A disturbing case of extreme Florida nursing home neglect came to light in December, 2011, when the nursing director and a registered nurse at the Clermont Health & Rehabilitation Center were arrested on charges of failing to follow doctors’ orders for the care of an elderly patient who was recovering from a hip fracture. Regulatory enforcement documents in that case identified failures to treat ulcers over the patient’s limbs and tailbone as factors contributing to the patient’s ultimate death at the Clermont facility.

Last month, long-investigated conditions at the Ocoee Health Care Center finally became the subject of fines and a licensing downgrade after the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration documented that the facility had failed to ensure adequate and appropriate health care, protection, and support services to residents, breaching standards for provision of pain management, infection control, and wound care. Staff at the facility was found, among other infractions, to have disregarded a patient’s report of severe pain from both a fractured femur and pressure ulcers, and to have sloughed and bandaged this same patient’s wounds without maintaining sterile conditions, and without regard for procedure-related pain.

The Many Faces of Long-Term Facility Abuse

There are, very sadly, all too many ways in which a resident of a skilled nursing facility may be neglected or abused. The media-catching cases described here are examples of obvious intentional and negligent misconduct, but there are more subtle ways in which residents may suffer harm. Gradual malnourishment of a patient through failure to provide him or her with needed feeding assistance may not make the news, but it nonetheless constitutes a life-threatening form of nursing home neglect that must be redressed. Similarly, depriving a nursing home resident of devices he or she needs in order to maintain mobility may not produce bodily injuries, but this sort of misconduct constitutes a type of false imprisonment for which a facility must be held accountable.

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Three Miami Herald articles, posted since August 2, 2012, confirm Broward authorities determined the cause of death of a 4 year old child named Jordan Coleman. Little Jordan, was left to die of heat exhaustion in a Toyota SUV, while his caregivers took other children inside an apartment building for a nap. They forgot about Jordan who was sprawled across the back seat of the car, asleep. He was not even in a child safety seat. Instead, nobody noticed he was missing.

Nearly 3 hours later, he was found breathless by 3C’s Academy day care workers. Paris Ward and a co-worker discovered his body, but it was too late. Jordan’s body temperature had reached 108 degrees. He was not breathing after having been left inside a car on of the hottest days of the year. Paris Ward was charged with manslaughter; as, she was responsible for the direct supervision of the children. (Miami Herald.com)

This gross negligence and abuse is tragic. No child or adult could have ever survived. The vehicle had no ventilation and outside temperatures were into the 90’s. Broward County day care centers must adhere to regulations established by the Florida Division of Child Care Licensing and Enforcement. However, it is not only the responsibility of the county to enforce its code of conduct, and cite day care centers, whenever they are not compliant. But, centers should be closed down in cases like this, before tragedy strikes.

Instead, the 3 C’s Academy day care center was permitted to operate, despite repeated violations. Unfortunately, the government level of scrutiny was not enough to keep children safe. In reality, the 3 C’s was visited by Child Care Licensing and Enforcement Division officials four times over the last year, and was cited each time! Nevertheless, their doors stayed open for business.

If laws are written in order to protect children from neglect or abuse, then, why wasn’t the 3 C’s Academy shut down before Jordan’s death? For one thing, the day care center was operating over its authorized capacity. The child to adult ratio was above the legal limits in the state regulations. Plus, the 3 C’s was cited for leaving children under the direct supervision of an underage worker. Disturbingly, it was also revealed that there was only one child safety seat in a vehicle used to transport 8 children, including a nine month old baby! How can the public turn a blind eye to the mistreatment of defenseless children?

Despite its mission to regulate, enforce and improve the quality of child care, the Broward County child licensing and enforcement section, merely encouraged compliance with state law for the 3 C’s Academy, rather than making it mandatory. It was known and documented, that the facility was non compliant. On the day that Jordan died, the 3 C’s Academy owner, Cecily Roberts, instructed her employees to take the children to another location so that they would not be cited again, or even shut down. How can we tolerate disobeying the regulations?

Day care abuse and neglect cases are complicated, and personal injury attorneys who are qualified to handle them, understand that the signs of facility abuse are not always easily identifiable. “In this particular case, it would appear that the Community Partnership Division of Child Care Licensing and Enforcement dropped the ball one too many times” said Philip M. Gerson of Gerson & Schwartz, PA. “Obviously, after citations had been issued, there should have been much greater scrutiny over the facility. And, if they are still non compliant, they should have been closed”, Gerson said.

Child abuse or child neglect cases are usually the result of unqualified or inadequately trained or supervised staff members. Incidents of wrongful death and abuse of children at day care facilities have prompted thorough investigations by the law firm of Gerson & Schwartz, PA for decades. Without exception, all complaints or citations regarding child care facilities should be taken seriously.

The innocent victims of abuse cannot protect themselves; and, it is our civic duty to make sure they are safe, at all times. Parents are in the dark about violations of the day care facilities, too often. They trust the safety of their children to day care facilities because reports and citations are not available to the public. If the responsible parties who advocate for children’s welfare and safety do not close down facilities, when there are serious violations, then more children will be put in harm’s way.

If you are concerned that a child may be in danger, do not hesitate to hire a day care and neglect attorney to conduct a thorough investigation of your case. Just compensation is available to families whose children were seriously harmed while in the care of a negligent day care facility. If you suspect child abuse is taking place at a day care or in any situation report it to the authorities; and, then please contact the law offices of Gerson & Schwartz, PA at (305)371-6000 or info@gslawusa.com. All communications are strictly confidential and consultations are always free.

Gerson & Schwartz, PA will fight for the rights of children who have been abused or neglected.

1160103_prescription_drugs_2%20sxchu.jpgA recent investigation by the Miami Herald revealed that many assisted-living facilities are allegedly ignoring a Florida law designed to protect residents. The 1980 Resident Bill of Rights was enacted to protect elderly and mentally ill care facility residents who sought an alternative to traditional nursing homes. Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) is responsible for monitoring the state’s 2,850 assisted care facilities. According to the newspaper, the Agency frequently failed to take action against assisted-living facilities despite police and inspector reports that residents were being denied basic needs.

For example, Bruce Hall, the owner of a Washington County facility, was directed by the Agency to sell the Sunshine Acres Loving Care facility only after neighbors organized to put pressure on the AHCA. Despite that the facility received more than 100 violations in 14 years and the owner allegedly threatened inspectors on more than one occasion, Hall was still provided with a one year grace period in order to secure a purchaser for the facility.

The Miami Herald reportedly found that as Florida’s elderly population grew, the level of care and state oversight at assisted-living facilities declined. To illustrate, although 550 new nursing homes opened in Florida during the last five years, the number of state inspections declined by 33 percent. Additionally, the newspaper reported that although assisted-living facility violations such as the use of illegal restraints are common, the resulting fines that are issued by the Agency are often decreased or waived. Despite a large number of allegedly serious care facility violations, Florida has closed only seven assisted-living facilities during the last two years.

According to the Miami Herald, unsafe conditions at a number of facilities has prompted several government agencies to cut funding to particular assisted-living facilities the AHCA has allowed to remain open. The Mental Health Project out of Miami-Dade Court reportedly will not allow the individuals it serves to stay at the All America ACLF, where a 71-year-old-mentally ill resident died in 2006 as a result of scalding burns after being left unattended in a bathtub. Although the facility was allegedly cited by the AHCA more than 100 times since the incident, it is still licensed and open. The Agency for Persons with Disabilities also reportedly cut all funding to the Hillandale ALF after it was accused of punishing the mentally ill by locking them away in closets.
The Miami Herald claims the AHCA rarely imposes the maximum fine allowed on assisted-living facilities that violate Florida law. In 2009, the Agency imposed only $650,000 in fines despite that the Florida Legislature expanded the AHCA’s power to fine care facilities in the same year. According to the AHCA, the Agency’s goal is not to punish facilities but instead to encourage compliance with state law. Penalties such as fines are reportedly only used as secondary enforcement measures. The AHCA also stated it will only consider revoking a care facility’s license as a last resort. First, other solutions are examined and explored on a case-by-case basis.

Assisted-living facility abuse and neglect cases are often the result of unqualified or improperly trained staff. Unfortunately, the signs of care facility abuse are not always easy to identify. Residents may experience a loss of appetite, depression, and more frequent accidents. An abused assisted-living facility resident may also complain about the treatment they are receiving. All complaints regarding assisted-living facility abuse or neglect should be taken seriously. If you suspect a family member or friend may be the victim of abuse at the hands of those tasked with their care, you should speak with a qualified Florida nursing home abuse and neglect attorney to help you protect your loved one’s rights.

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