Established in the 1960s to protect residents from nursing home abuse and assisted living facility neglect, Florida’s elder care ombudsman program seems to be falling apart. With politics encroaching on its goals, many of the program’s veterans are either resigning or being fired by Jim Crochet, the new Chief Ombudsman suggested by nursing home and assisted living facility owners. Crochet is at odds with many of the program’s volunteers who argue he is attempting to reduce their effectiveness.
The Miami Herald reports Crochet denies allegations of firings and resignations and insists the program has more volunteers than ever before. In spite of the denials by Crochet, many volunteers have resigned stating they feel they are no longer respected and cannot do their jobs. One of the reasons volunteers feel they can no longer do their jobs involves policy changes implemented by Crochet. For example, one of the policy changes limits volunteers to interviewing residents rather than observing general facility conditions. This new policy does not seem to make much sense to the volunteers because many long term care residents are not capable of expressing what happened to them. Without the observations of the volunteers, there may be little if any proof of wrongdoing.
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Industry experts, lawmakers and even the state’s long term care regulating organization the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA), all seem to be campaigning against the ombudsman program. Lawmakers have been chiseling away at the ombudsman program for quite some time. Six months ago they discussed eliminating the group’s yearly inspections of nursing homes and assisted living facilities despite volunteers uncovering a record number of nursing home neglect and assisted living facility abuse cases throughout Florida.
Governor Scott has convened a task force to determine how to address the growing number of assisted living facility neglect cases recently uncovered. It seems counter intuitive that the government seems to be looking for a new solution to the problem while systematically dismantling the existing program that helped uncover the problem.