Threatened Lakeland hospice does "right thing," keeps paying workers

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Compassion can be a powerful force, especially when it’s a company doing the right thing for employees and clients.

Despite threats of law enforcement action and regulatory sanctions, a Lakeland hospice ordered to close by the state over a “disputed clerical error” is still taking care of its personnel and terminally ill patients.

Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration has accused the Compassionate Care Hospice on Drane Field Road of not submitting license renewal paperwork by a February deadline. With that, the company’s license is technically expired, according to the state, prompting a letter to CCH on March 9 ordering the hospice facility to cease operations immediately.

CCH officials said they sent the proper paperwork to the AHCA in a timely manner, but the agency said it was never received.

The facility, which serves Polk, Highlands and Hardee counties, has asked the state for permission to continue serving terminally ill patients through the appeal process. Last week, the AHCA denied a hearing for CCH attorneys to present what they say is compelling evidence that the company submitted the proper license renewal.

In an emergency hearing, the 1st District Court of Appeal granted CCH approval to keep operating while the state sorts out the issue.

Despite an uncertain future, CCH remains committed to its employees, patients and families suffering through some of the most stressful situations possible.

For example, the company Monday distributed payroll checks totaling $250,000 for the 150 employees in the Central Florida region. That comes even though there are no assurances CCH will receive reimbursement, something dictated by state law for licensed hospice providers.

CCH executive Robert Aberman said, for the time being, the company will continue to pay employees and provide care to terminally ill patients

“It’s the right thing to do,” he wrote in an email.

Nevertheless, CCH representatives still wonder how long the company can sustain employees until the state can resolve the matter.

“A portion of these costs would be reimbursed/recovered,” Aberman wrote. “However, in their case they are working under the assumption that this is not reimbursable unless AHCA addresses the license issue.”

The AHCA issued a statement saying, “It is disappointing the company allowed their license to expire. AHCA has offered any needed direction to pursue a change to the current law.”

Phil Ammann

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist, editor and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing, reporting and management experience, Phil produced content for both print and online, in addition to founding several specialty websites, including HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range included covering news, local government and entertainment reviews for Patch.com, technical articles, and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine as well as advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as editor and production manager for Extensive Enterprises Media since 2013 and lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul. He can be reached at phil.ammann@gmail.com.



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