NEW TAMPA — Five months ago, state regulators shut down an assisted living facility in New Port Richey that racked up 45 violations, including filthy bathrooms, rudeness to residents and one incident in which an employee spiked a resident's pudding with a laxative.
The Westbury House remains closed. But its former owners are operating another home in New Tampa that provides meals and performs household chores for elderly clients.
Julius Vincent Reyes and Maria Teresa Reyes of Land O'Lakes are registered with the state as managers of Oakflower Home, located at 20130 Oakflower Ave. in the private, gated Live Oak community.
The couple did not respond to a request for an interview for this story.
The Oakflower Home was registered on Nov. 16, about three weeks before the state began investigating Westbury House, according to state records. The registration expires Nov. 15, 2011.
The couple declined to respond to state regulators' allegations regarding Westbury House when it was closed and fined $5,000 in February.
State officials denied Reyes' application to reopen Westbury House in light of the investigation, said Shelisha Durden, a spokeswoman for the Florida Agency for Healthcare Administration.
Among a state report's findings at Westbury House:
• The administrator called one resident "a cripple" and announced to all residents in the television room that "everyone was paid up except you" and pointed to one resident. According to the residents, the administrator also threatened to throw a resident "out on the street" if the resident talked to state regulators.
• The administrator often ignored residents when they knocked on the office door.
• Staff members swore at residents and sometimes got angry with them if they overloaded a washer or clogged the toilets.
• A resident alleged that a staffer offered the resident a "special treat" of chocolate pudding that the resident later learned was mixed with a laxative. The resident, who was having problems with the staffer, refused to eat the pudding. That staffer later confided in another employee that the pudding had been tainted "because the staff member was angry with the resident for calling her names," according to the investigator's report.
• Bathrooms had no soap or paper towels, broken toilet paper dispensers and exposed light bulbs. An inspector noted feces on the floor and smeared on a toilet seat in one bathroom.
Durden, the Healthcare Administration spokeswoman, explained in an e-mail that Oakflower Home is classified as a homemaker companion organization, which is different from an assisted living facility such as Westbury House. Unlike ALFs, homemaker companion services do not provide personal care such as bathing.
State law also is less stringent when it comes to homemaker companion services. Those wanting to operate them must apply with the agency and attest that all employees have undergone criminal background checks. A list of offenses, mostly violent crimes, bar a person from working for the organization. However, the rules say "there are no inspections to verify that the organization meets the requirement."
The applicants must also agree to give all clients a copy of the toll-free phone numbers to call for complaints about services or abuse.
The application also asks whether the business or its ownership has ever been "excluded, suspended, terminated or involuntarily withdrawn from participation in Medicare, Medicaid, Medicaid Waiver, federal Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendment or any other governmental or private health care/insurance programs in any state."
If the answer is yes, the applicant is asked to explain. The Reyes' answered no because at the time of their application for Oakflower Home, Westbury was still operating.
Other than that, there are few rules regarding homemaker companion services:
No health statements for clients or employee training are required, no minimum standards for service exist, no insurance is required, no office is required to be open and staffed a minimum number of hours a day, no nursing supervision is required and the homes do not need to have a disaster plan.
There also are no unannounced inspections. Complaints are investigated, but "there are very few specific requirements," AHCA's website said. However, regulators can impose a moratorium on new clients or revoke a registration.
"There are no fines," the agency's website said.
Oakflower Home is located in a one-story golden-yellow stucco home between another home and a vacant lot. It's unclear how Oakflower Home would operate.
The Hillsborough County Property Appraiser's website lists the Reyeses as owners of the 2,661-square-foot home, which has five bedrooms and four bathrooms. According to the appraiser, they bought the home in June 2008 for $280,000.