Last week, the Miami Herald reported Brian Lee, the former director of Florida’s Long-term Care Ombudsman Program, filed a lawsuit against the Florida Department of Elder Affairs and two industry defendants. The lawsuit alleges his resignation was forced as punishment for his resident advocacy.
As previously reported in this blog, Lee requested information about facility owners and directors from all 677 Florida nursing homes. Shortly thereafter, he claims he was approached and told either he could resign from his position or he would be fired. According to the lawsuit, he was penalized for being a “whistleblower;” uncovering rule violations, nursing home abuse, and nursing home neglect.
Volunteers make up the majority of the long-term care ombudsman program and were outraged when Lee resigned. He had, “developed a national reputation for having effectively advocated for residents of Florida’s long-term care facilities and their families.”
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But the lawsuit seeks only monetary compensation for damage done to Lee’s reputation and for emotional distress. Lee is not asking to be reinstated, which leaves the ombudsman program in the hands of Jim Crochet. Crochet was appointed to the position by Charles Corley, who was appointed to his position by Governor Rick Scott.
The Ledger reports that while Crochet has rejected accusations that he is friendly with the nursing home industry and insists he has the interests of residents at heart, he has done little to move forward with his promises to improve the program. Whether or not Mr. Crochet will be an effective advocate against nursing home abuse is yet to be seen.