TAMPA, Fla. -- Several nursing home facilities in the Tampa Bay region were included in a list of more than 400 nursing homes with ongoing health, safety or sanitary problems.
And government sources say it’s not likely that those facilities will likely face any additional scrutiny from government agencies.
A total of 488 facilities made the list, out of more than 15,000 nursing home and rehab facilities nationwide which are rated by Medicare.
Seven facilities on the list are in the Tampa Bay area. Three nursing homes in Tampa made the list.
I-TEAM INVESTIGATIONS | Our latest investigations
They include Bristol at Tampa on East Fletcher Avenue, Brighton Gardens on North Dale Mabry Highway and Excel Care Center on Camps Hill Drive.
Hawthorn Health and Beneva Lakes in Sarasota, North Rehabilitation Center in St. Petersburg and Oak Haven Rehabilitation Center in Auburndale also made the list.
“People who are on Medicaid, they don't have any choice they've got to go wherever they put them,” said Ruben Barretto, who we talked to when he was going to visit a friend at Excel Care.
U.S. Senators Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) asked for information from the U.S. Department of Heath and Human Services following a March hearing of the Senate Finance Committee.
In that hearing they heard from witnesses about issues with Medicare’s flawed nursing home ratings system called “Nursing Home Compare.”
The Senators learned from that federal agency that there was a list that was not available to the public naming nursing home facilities with persistent records of poor care.
“Oversight of America’s poorest quality nursing homes falls short of what taxpayers should expect,” the senators said in the joint report.
The government said the 400 facilities were candidates for the "Special Focus Facilities" program, which provides more government oversight, including more frequent inspections and progressive fines.
New facilities are only added to the SFF program when space allows.
“These are the ones that are systematically having problems with government surveys,” said Tampa nursing home negligence attorney Bennie Lazzara, who has sued several of the facilities on the list.
He said making the list public is a good start.
“There shouldn't be any secrets in this area. Talk about transparency, this is an area where transparency is essential,” Lazzara said.
The 400 nursing homes that were named in the once-secret list likely won't face additional regulation, since the government says it doesn't have enough money to expand the program.
“It's all taxpayer dollars that these nursing homes are running under, primarily Medicare and Medicaid money is what keeps these nursing homes going. So there ought to be enough taxpayer dollars to properly monitor them and regulate them,” Lazzara said.
Here are statements from some of the facilities named as candidates for the SFF program:
Brighton Gardens of Tampa:
Our highest priority is the well-being of our residents, and providing the best possible home for them is a responsibility we take very seriously. We continuously strive to improve our programs and services to help deliver the high quality of care they expect and deserve.
Hawthorn Village of Sarasota:
“This report includes facilities that are currently on the Special Focus List and those that were being considered. Although we were considered based on this report, the fact remains that we have not been added to this Special Focus List. As a matter of fact, the results of our last two surveys would be considered good based on the industries overall performance. We were recently chosen as the First Place winner of the Herald Tribune Reader’s Choice Award for nursing homes in Manatee County. We believe this is due to the excellent customer satisfaction in our clinical outcomes. We continually survey our residents and families for customer satisfaction and the results have been great! We have a below national average rate for hospital readmissions, and continue to be seen by the area Hospitals and medical professionals as an excellent choice in post-acute rehabilitation.“
The Bristol at Tampa:
“The Bristol at Tampa has undergone many positive changes as of late, to ensure an ongoing enhancement in the overall quality of services offered. New leadership, both administrative and clinical, have a focus on individualized, patient-centered care. Outstanding clinical outcomes and experiences are what we are excited to continue to provide and progress in for this community- this is a non-negotiable for us. In addition to new leadership, The Bristol is excited to share that we will continue to put tremendous resources into our staff, programming, and overall quality of care enhancements, as well as undergoing a $4.1 million dollar renovation, allowing us to treat the body, mind, and spirit of our patients and their families to greater and higher standards of excellence. “
Here is the list of nursing homes which are in the SFF program or are candidates for the program:
To check out a specific nursing home, follow this link: https://www.medicare.gov/nursinghomecompare/search.html?#state=FL&lat=0&lng=0
If you have a story you’d like the I-Team to investigate, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.