The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) removed all nursing home inspections from its website about three months ago, the Miami Herald reported.
The agency gave no announcement or notice of the removal of the records, which came soon after the Miami Herald reported on the agency’s decision to heavily redact reports.
The AHCA spent $22,000 for redaction software in the past year, the Herald reported. The software automatically blacks out words the agency says must be concealed from the public, but the same words were available without redaction on a federal website, the Herald found.
The new censoring of detail protects nursing homes more than it does patients, open-government and elder advocates told the Herald.
Nursing home operators in Florida have seen increased scrutiny since this past summer, when 13 residents at a Hollywood, Florida facility died in the wake of Hurricane Irma. But the renewed attention has also shone a light on some cases that long predate the most recent headline-grabbing tragedies.
For instance, the Herald pointed to the case of Olga Vasquez, a resident of Signature HealthCare Center of Waterford in Hialeah Gardens, Florida who committed suicide on May 31, 2012. She had not seen a psychiatrist in weeks, in spite of instructions mandating a consultation around April 30, due to a series of lapses, according to a redacted copy of AHCA’s report on the incident.
Reports on Vasquez’s death are no longer available on AHCA’s website or on the federal Medicare program’s website.
AHCA’s website, www.FloridaHealthFinder.gov, lets customers compare nursing homes by their inspection rating, Mallory McManus, AHCA’s communications director, said in a statement emailed to Skilled Nursing News.
“Consumers can search by county, zip code and even by services offered at every nursing home in Florida,” the statement read.
“This gives families more information to make informed health care decisions for their loved ones.”
But the performance measures for each metric for nursing home inspections aren’t quite as simple as assessing the number of stars. They represent the ranking of a nursing home in its geographical region, FloridaHealthFinder.gov notes.
“All of the nursing homes in a particular region could perform better than the statewide average,” the site reads after selecting “inspection ratings” and choosing a Florida county. “Therefore, a low rank does not necessarily indicate a ‘low quality’ facility. Similarly, all of the nursing homes in a particular region could perform lower than the statewide average. Therefore, receiving a high rank does not necessarily indicate a ‘high quality’ facility.”
FloridaHealthFinder.gov won a Digital Government Achievement Award from the Center for Digital Government in the “Government-to-citizen State and Federal government” category, the statement also said.
That award, however, was received before the nursing home inspections were removed from AHCA’s site, the Miami Herald noted.
Written by Maggie Flynn