On-site visits scheduled for six Gold Seal nursing home hopefuls
Kim Smaok gets a lesson on gold-star nursing homes.

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There are 690 nursing home in Florida, but only 14 are 'Gold Seal.'

Members of a blue-ribbon, long-term care panel agreed to schedule on-site visits to six nursing homes and to reconvene at the end of November to decide which facilities should be recommended for the “Gold Seal” designation.

“The Gold Seal to me is a very precious Governor’s panel as we are reviewing the best of the best in long=term care in Florida,” Governor’s Panel on Excellence in Long-Term Care Chair Bobby Rosenthal said.

All six facilities that applied for the Gold Seal recognition are five-star rated, according to a state Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) website. 

That overall rating is based on the findings in inspection reports with close attention paid to the following components: nutrition and hydration; restraints and abuse; pressure ulcers; decline; and dignity.

Quality of care, quality of life and facility administration also are components of the overall score.

The nursing homes’ Gold Seal applications were not posted on the agency’s website and AHCA did not respond at press time to Florida Politics request for the information.

While all six Gold Seal applicants are five-star rated, just two scored perfectly across all scoring categories: Joseph L. Morse Health Center, Inc. in West Palm Beach, and Delaney Park Health and Rehabilitation Center in Orlando. Both nursing homes currently have the Gold Seal designation, but that designation expires at the end of the year, prompting the facilities to reapply.

Governor’s Panel on Excellence in Long-Term Care member and AHCA Deputy Secretary Kimberly Smoak asked nursing home representatives about their reliance on agency staff to meet mandated staffing ratios.

A representative from Joseph L. Morse Health Center testified that the facility did not need to rely on agency nursing staff during the COVID-19 pandemic and has not had to rely on agency nursing staff since the pandemic.

She said that management at the 170-bed facility has been proactively working with its nursing staff. “Management went on floors talking to all the staff trying to assess their needs and situations,” she testified, adding that the facility also hosted a CNA training to beef up staff. It also paid its nursing staff bonuses.

While she said it was “fortunate” the facility has not had to rely on agency nursing staff, Rosenthal said it wasn’t happenstance.

“I would note that their building has 170 beds, so I would congratulate you on your proactive approach in handling it and not having to use any agency. I commend you for that,” he said.

One of the facilities, River Garden Hebrew Home for the Aged in Jacksonville, scored three-stars on the quality-of-care section.

Rosenthal said the three-star ranking didn’t disqualify the facility, an existing Gold Seal provider, from renewing its Gold Seal designation. But he said it was important for panel members to “understand where the three stars came from.”

An April 2021 survey showed the facility failed to ensure that two of its residents were receiving the correct number of liters of oxygen, according to AHCA’s website. The facility also failed to ensure that its food preparation staff implemented and adhered to the policy for hand hygiene, disposable glove use and proper sanitation practices. 

River Garden Hebrew Home for the Aged Chief Executive Officer Mauri Mizrahi initially told the panel that the 180-bed facility was “actively working on both of those (issues) and they are practically solved.”

According to AHCA, the deficiencies were corrected in June 2021.

Mizrahi later clarified and told the panel members, “It’s no longer an issue, not a concern of ours at all.”

The Gold Seal Program was established in statute to award and recognize nursing home facilities that demonstrate excellence in long-term care over a sustained period, promote the stability of the industry, and facilitate the physical, social and emotional well-being of nursing home facility residents. The Governor’s Panel on Excellence in Long-Term Care administers the program and makes recommendations to the governor.

Gold Seal designations generally are awarded twice a year. A designation is valid for two years. 

There are 690 nursing homes in Florida, but only 14 nursing homes are recognized as Gold Seal facilities.

Members of the Governor’s Panel on Excellence in Long-Term Care will conduct on-site nursing home visits at the six facilities in the coming weeks and discuss the result of those visits at a Nov. 30 meeting in Orlando.

Christine Jordan Sexton

Tallahassee-based health care reporter who focuses on health care policy and the politics behind it. Medicaid, health insurance, workers’ compensation, and business and professional regulation are just a few of the things that keep me busy.


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