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First Amendment Advocates Say the State’s Response to Nursing Home Tragedy isn’t Transparent

September 25th, 2017 by Jake Stofan

A family member of one of the 11 residents who died in a nursing home in Hollywood Florida has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the facility.

Resident advocates and first amendment watchdogs say the state is dropping the ball when it comes to calls for transparency following the tragedy.

Records released by the Governor’s Office show more than 150 calls were made to Rick Scott’s personal cell phone while Irma approached on Saturday the 9th through Tuesday.

Included were four calls from Natasha Anderson, alerting the governor to the lack of power at the nursing home where eleven people eventually died.

All voicemails were deleted.

Information from the calls was forwarded to various state agencies, including the the Department of Health.

We asked Mike Millikan, the State Longterm Ombudsman if he had any concerns over the voicemails deletion.

 

“I assume that all public officials are responsive to their constituents,” said Millikan.

In a statement, the Governors Office said, “None of this changes the fact that this facility chose not to call 911 or evacuate their patients to the hospital across the street to save lives.”

Resident advocates say questions surrounding the voicemails is taking the spotlight away from a larger transparency issue, public access to nursing home health reports.

In the wake of the tragedy, the Agency for Health Care Administration stopped placing redacted nursing home inspection reports on the web following accusations the agency redacted public information from the reports.

Instead of reposting corrected versions of the reports there are links to versions of the report filed with the federal government.

 

“They are now giving consumers less of a history of what’s happening in nursing homes,” said Brian Lee with Families for Better Care.

But the state says what is currently online is adequate.

 

“They can always request the facility assessment report from the Ombudsman program,” said Millikan.

Health reports for nursing homes more than three years old are still available through public records requests.

The First Amendment Foundation says the way the call deletions and removal of the reports is legal, but the decisions call into question the judgement of the state following the tragedy.

The Foundation’s President says the state should be making every effort to make information more readily available not less.

 

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