Thursday, April 26, 2018

State orders brain injury center to move dozens of its patients

A Florida brain-injury center facing allegations of abuse has been ordered to move several of its patients to other facilities, according to a state report released Thursday.

The Florida Institute for Neurologic Rehabilitation, one of the largest facilities of its kind in the country, is treating patients without brain injuries — a breach of its license, say Florida regulators.

During a surprise inspection earlier this month, state officials say they found that 50 of 98 patients whose records were reviewed did not meet the licensing criteria for treatment at the center's main facility near Wauchula, about 50 miles southeast of Tampa.

The state said the institute, commonly called FINR, must submit a plan to relocate those patients to a facility "that is appropriate to meet their needs."

The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration also found FINR was keeping patients too long, another violation of its "transitional living facility" license. It ordered the center to develop a new protocol for discharging patients.

Wayne J. Miller, an attorney representing FINR, didn't immediately return messages seeking comment.

Investigators from three state agencies conducted a surprise inspection on Aug. 2 and 3 following a Bloomberg News report of dozens of cases of alleged abuse and neglect at the facility. FINR, a for-profit company, treats patients from across the country.

Patients' families or state agencies have alleged abuse or care lapses in at least five residents' deaths since 1998, two of them in the last two years. Three former employees face criminal charges of abusing FINR patients — one of whom was allegedly hit repeatedly for two hours in a TV room last September.

Florida's Department of Children and Families has received 514 allegations of abuse or neglect at FINR since 2005, including 37 that were "verified" by its investigations, according to records released by the agency. Investigators are still reviewing 23 of the claims.

Amid the heightened regulatory scrutiny, 10 lobbyists from four different firms registered with Florida officials this month with the state to represent FINR, according to state records.

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