Brian Lee of the nonprofit group Families for Better Care said the problems get ignored for one reason: "The industry has a stranglehold over the lawmakers. Make no mistake: This is a big business."
Lee should know. He used to run the state's ombudsman program — coordinating a network of volunteer watchdogs who visited nursing homes and assisted-living facilities — until he ruffled too many feathers.
Gov. Scott ousted Lee. And then the state started reining in its volunteer ombudsmen, trying to make it more difficult for them to check on elderly patients and the care they were receiving.
Ideally, all elderly residents would have regular visitors. But the reality is that many don't have family in town. Fewer still have routine visitors who are experts in quality care.
That's why the state set up its ombudsman program — so trained volunteers could visit facilities and talk with residents. It's sorely needed in a state with so many seniors — and where facilities are inspected only once every two years. (Other states make annual inspections.)
Deregulation sounds great as a talking point — until you realize that, in this case, you're talking about regulations meant to prevent veterans of World War II from festering in their own waste.
A handful of legislators are vowing to do better — including Republican Rep. Mike Fasano and Democratic Sen. Eleanor Sobel.
But Florida needs more people pushing for stronger accountability, better transparency and full-throated supported for our volunteer watchdogs in the ombudsmen program.
These aren't partisan issues. They're moral ones.
Find contact info for your House and Senate members at leg.state.fl.us or by calling 850-488-4371.