John Simmons: Florida’s nursing centers – setting the record straight on quality care
The U.S. Supreme Court will not hear the case of the Reahbilitation Center of Hollywood.


I always thought journalists were trained to avoid reaching a broad conclusion from just one specific example, no matter how shocking it may be. Yet in his guest commentary in Wednesday’s Tallahassee Democrat, opinion columnist Carl Hiaasen unfairly slammed Florida’s entire long-term care profession based on the shameful and inexcusable actions of a single nursing home.

His column, unfortunately, followed the recent trend of other media outlets, which have been quick to embrace sweeping overhaul proposals while completely overlooking many extraordinary actions nursing homes all over Florida took before, during, and after Hurricane Irma to protect those living in our centers.

In Hiaasen’s view, the tragic deaths of 12 residents at a Hollywood Hills nursing home were the inevitable result of years of neglect, and worse, by a powerful industry that imposed its will on the Florida Legislature. While I certainly agree that the deaths at this facility are intolerable and need to be properly investigated, the assertion that this somehow represents the entire long-term care profession couldn’t be further from the truth. It also does a great injustice to the thousands of highly skilled professionals who dedicate themselves to caring for some of our state’s most fragile residents.

I wish to be very clear about this: Nothing is a higher priority for our centers than the well-being of those entrusted to our care. To further that objective, we embrace Gov. Rick Scott’s goal to have generators in place at every long-term care center – to make sure they can maintain a safe temperature should the power go out in an emergency.

During a summit on this issue we hosted last month, we heard from a variety of speakers that the shortened timetable is not achievable, but nonetheless, we remain committed to working with Gov. Scott and others to make sure our centers are as safe as possible, as soon as possible.

Here are some facts, so easily disregarded in the zeal to criticize the entire profession based on the actions (or inactions) of one facility – a center, by the way, that isn’t even a member of our professional association:

– Over the past year, nearly 1,500 long-term care professionals who are members of Florida Health Care Association (FHCA) have taken part in emergency preparedness training – from community-based discussions to disaster drills to educational seminars.

– During Hurricane Irma, FHCA centers performed more than 60 successful evacuations, while more than 500 other facilities successfully sheltered their residents in place.

– Upward of 400 nursing centers lost power during Hurricane Irma, yet our members continued successfully caring for 68,000 residents through the course of the storm.

– A recent Emory University survey showed that 94 percent of Florida nursing centers have regular communications with local emergency managed agencies to discuss emergency preparedness.

– Our association was supportive when the Legislature sought to require nursing home generators after Florida’s terrible 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons. The plan fell apart over funding provisions, not because the nursing home professional was opposed to it.

Hiaasen’s column is another example of coverage that appears quick to tarnish the reputation of the long-term care industry without considering all the good things it has done – in general, and specifically in dealing with Hurricane Irma. All these articles really accomplish is paving the way for every greedy trial attorney to come out of the woodwork looking to capitalize on this terrible tragedy.

Florida’s nursing home profession consists of hundreds of excellent centers staffed by thousands of dedicated, caring professionals. I wholeheartedly believe that they deserve better than to have their reputations tarnished by the tragic – but isolated – events at a single nursing home.


John C. Simmons is president of Florida Health Care Association, the state’s first and largest advocacy organization for long-term care providers and the residents under their care. He can be reached at [email protected].


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One comment

  • Brian Bickett

    October 15, 2017 at 7:33 am

    As an administrator in the state of Florida I applaud the effort and success of the individuals and communities that did what was needed related to preparedness and execution of preparedness planning. However, I must take issue with the comment of ’embracing the goal to have generators in place …to maintain a safe temperature should the power go out in an emergency. ‘
    That single sentence encapsulates the actions of an industry in the State that has a propensity to take care of business when someone important notices. I have actually run homes for companies that said – we will fix it AHCA finds out and tells us to. Unfortunately, the most important, the residents, families and the staff notice issues such as the one on topic here, but the “home offices” or “corporate” fail to be proactive blaming the State and costs.
    So, hats off to the worker bees- the single mom and dad CNA’s , the RN’s and LPN’s who lost time from second jobs to stay with the residents they care about. And to the support staff- business office, dietary and environmental services teams that most likely were exposed to elements of direct care because they do care.
    I trust the owner / operators, bragging post Irma , about how they helped fold some towels, get out on the floor, hold town meetings in their facilities and re-evaluate their personal pay and benefit plans and be proactive because the most important people are noticing . They are largest generation of our time , the ones responsible for in home births and in home postmortem options , and they just may find a more responsible , dignified and proactive way to take care of their loved ones.

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