Ombudsman Gets Record Number of Complaints

By: Michael Peltier, The News Service of Florida
By: Michael Peltier, The News Service of Florida


Complaints are up while the number of volunteers and staff are down in the office that oversees quality control in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities across the state.

A sluggish economy is taking its toll on the ability of retirees to volunteer their time, according to an annual report released Monday by the Florida Long-Term Care Ombudsman program, established in 1975 to improve health care for the millions Floridians who call such facilities home.

At the same time, the number of complaints filed with the consumer watchdog has risen to its highest level since the program began, with the number of complaints up 8.8 percent for the 12 months ending Sept. 30 compared to the year before.

“Volunteer ombudsmen investigated more complaints this year than they have ever investigated in the 35-year history of the program, a total of 9,098 complaints,” Elder Affairs Interim Secretary Charles T. Corley said in as statement accompanying the report’s release.

An industry spokeswoman said the ombudsman’s role is critical to ensuring quality care, a focus shared by the more than 650 long-term care facilities across the state. Kristen Knapp, a spokesman for the Florida Health Care Association, say the ombudsman’s report also shows that 98 percent of respondents say their concerns were quickly resolved.

“Our facilities are committed to quality care,” Knapp said. “In Florida, we have some of the highest staffing ratios in the country.”

The ombudsman program uses volunteers to field complaints, investigate and intervene in the cases involving residents at nursing homes, assisted living facilities and adult family care homes. The $3.2 million program receives about $1.5 million from the state, with the remainder coming from federal funds. The agency said that during the last year it saved Floridians $1.8 million in long-term care costs.

Resident care and rights were the top two areas of concern in Florida nursing homes during the period, accounting for more than two-thirds of all complaints, the report found. Among those residing in assisted living and adult family care homes, quality of life and resident rights issues made up 64 percent of all complaints.

Among the program’s biggest challenges is finding volunteers. Last year, the program completed its duties with fewer volunteers, a reflection of the prolonged economic slowdown.

The report said the number of volunteers fell from more than 400 last reporting year to just under 380 this year. The slow-paced economy has forced a number of individuals to return to full-time employment, according to Brian Lee, program director.

During the same period, the number of paid staff fell by nearly 30 percent.

“I’m proud to serve a program that relies almost entirely on the dedication of volunteers,” Lee said. “Complaint investigations rose and all administrative facility assessments were completed despite there being fewer volunteers than in recent years.”

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  • by Carol Location: Bradenton on Apr 12, 2011 at 10:02 PM
    I do believe the entire program can be made up of volunteers. I have a bachelor of health education and been in nursing since 71. My last job of close to 20 yrs was in Staff Development. I did call, filled out the paperwork; however, to become a volunteer it required my driving over 90 minutes each way for 3 days of instructions. I told them that was impossible. Due to a disability, I cannot drive that far alone. I was not allowed to take the course at home,it was impossible for me to not take this volunter position. What an asset I could have been. Maybe they need to rethink the training issue, and if someone has a current license, and has an extensive amount of background, they could send the coursework and it be done at one's home. I know the laws, I also know Resident's Rights. Are you aware that if someone is left in a chair or bed without proper call lights, for over 7 minutes, or their call light is not answered for over 7 minutes it is a FELONY OFFENSE IN THE STATE OF FLORIDA?????? That usually wakes people up. There are homes locally, I would not allow to put my dog in. Yet people are in these homes, treated worse then animals, threatened, live in fear of some of the CNA's. And then there are the good homes. But with out enough ombudsman or overseeing agencies, the bad homes continue to run, and their care only gets worse, Criminal is some of the activity , yet nothing happens. Remember they are someone's parents or loved one. We are in the 21 century yet some homes still operate as if in the 19th centruy. God help us all.
  • by Blue Location: Orlando on Dec 28, 2010 at 07:29 AM
    Not true Sam, get your facts straight. The Ombudsman Program handles complaints that Regulatory would otherwise ignore. It is a very involved volunteer work and requires the right kind of person to do it. That is probably the reason why some people quit, this is not like volunteering at your local soup kitchen. Maybe your right about the Nursing Home comment and the FHCA comment, but I have to say that it is a good program that focuses on advocating for "resident's rights" and "quality of care."
  • by kaye Location: valdosta on Dec 21, 2010 at 01:11 PM
    I'm sure that the Ombudsman provide a needed service but those that volunteer need more training. My father was in a long-term care facility after he had several strokes, dementia, and several other problems that left him in no position to care from himself. For his safety he went into a nice facility and I visited him almost every day. The ombudsman came by and talked to him one day and after just a few minutes thought he didn't need to be there...(never mind what all of the doctors said)the ombudsman told my father he could call a cab to come pick him up. My father would have been lost on the streets without any family knowing where he was. Thank goodness my father didn't call a taxi. If he had, I'm sure he would have died on the streets somewhere. The ombudsman even called me and told me what he had said to my father.
  • by Bill Location: TLH on Dec 21, 2010 at 07:48 AM
    My elderly mother-in-law(93)died in a nursing home about a year ago. I am sure that working in such a place is difficult. However, many of the paid staff are WORTHLESS. It seems that their principal efforts are directed toward avoiding their assigned tasks. EVERY resident of such a facility needs a personal advocate. Otherwise, they are given minimal attention and assistance! Sorry, but that is the way things are.
  • by Sam Location: texas on Dec 21, 2010 at 07:28 AM
    An industry spokeswoman said the ombudsman’s role is critical to ensuring quality care, a focus shared by the more than 650 long-term care facilities across the state. Kristen Knapp, a spokesman for the Florida Health Care Association, say the ombudsman’s report also shows that 98 percent of respondents say their concerns were quickly resolved. The above by the nursing home industry is a lie. The Ombudsman program like the program because it has no clout, is in place as a distraction to stop Regulatory from taking punitive action. Most volunteers quit after they find out the progsram is a fraud.
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