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Former Nursing Home Watchdog Sues Florida Over Firing

Posted on August 15, 2011

Are Florida’s nursing homes any safer since the state fired its top watchdog over long-term care facilities? Brian Lee resigned in February from his job as the ombudsman for nursing homes and assisted living facilities after he says he was retaliated against for having high standards. He has now filed a civil lawsuit against the Florida Department of Elder Affairs and two industry groups, the Florida Health Care Association and the Florida Assisted Living Association.

Lee says he was forced to leave a program he loved and left the state’s elderly population vulnerable when nobody was put in his place and protections were dismantled. As an ombudsman, Lee oversaw volunteers who went to long-term-care facilities to investigate complaints by elders. The person put in his place was recommended by the assisted living industry. Lee says Gov. Rick Scott was involved in his firing, despite the fact that his previous performance reviews had been “stellar.”

Lee had criticized the industry for creating hard-to-track companies to avoid lawsuits by elders who felt they had been abused. He had requested all nursing homes list their ownership and directors, but that request was rescinded by his successor after the industry pushed back. Lee said the industry was trying to interfere with his attempts and he was forced to resign February 7. In his lawsuit, Lee says the Department of Elder Affairs retaliated because he blew the whistle about alleged wrongdoing.

In 2002, the state provided a Nursing Home Guide to help families find the best facility in their areas or in the state. The Guide recognizes the best nursing facilities with the highest standards, as deemed partially by the states’ ombudsman program. To view the guide, visit http://apps.ahca.myflorida.com/NHCGUIDE/.

The nursing home abuse lawyers in Jacksonville at the Farah & Farah law firm suggest looking for the facilities with the Gold Seal Award to find the facilities that offer the highest quality of life for their residents before placing a loved one in a nursing home or similar facility in order to reduce the chance of nursing home abuse occurring.

Source: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/health/os-nursing-home-watchdog-lawsuit-20110812,0,1811007.story