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Nursing home deaths could raise political issue between Bill Nelson, Rick Scott

Nelson calls it “emerging scandal of gargantuan proportions”
Sen. Bill Nelson talks with reporters after eight people died in a South Florida nursing home.
Sen. Bill Nelson talks with reporters after eight people died in a South Florida nursing home.
Published Sep. 15, 2017|Updated Sep. 15, 2017

Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday called on his Agency for Health Care Administration to terminate a Hollywood nursing home as a Medicaid provider, taking action on a burgeoning controversy after eight people died.

But the issue is not going away and other senior facilities have been plagued with power issues in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.

Sen. Bill Nelson, likely to face a challenge next year from Scott, said on CNN the other day that the governor needs to “crack the whip” on ensuring nursing homes have adequate emergency plans.

“I think it is an emerging scandal of gargantuan proportions,” Nelson told reporters in a subsequent interview. (He did not mention Scott.)

Nelson on Thursday sent a letter to Health Secretary Tom Price demanding action.

“Seniors in nursing homes are among the most vulnerable and depend on facility staff for care and protection,” it read. “Failure to transfer them to a hospital some fifty yards away is unforgivable. Moreover, this facility has a history of higher than average deficiencies, below average ratings, and inadequate emergency preparedness plans.”

The owner of the facility, Jack Michel, has a history of health care fraud charges.

Records show he contributed $1,000 to Nelson in 2012 (he also gave $500 to former State Senate President Mike Haridopolos). UPDATE: Nelson’s spokesman said the lawmaker does not know Michel. ‘He’s one of tens of thousands of people who’ve contributed to one of Nelson’s campaigns over the years.”

Scott has expressed outrage at the events and state agencies are investigating.

“This facility was responsible to provide their patients a safe environment and they failed to do so,” Scott’s office said last night in a statement related to the order directing termination of the Medicaid contract. “The state has had multiple points of contact with this facility prior to the tragedy, and at no time did the facility communicate any imminent threats to their patients’ life or safety.”

In 2011, Scott, a former health care executive, faced criticism after the dismissal of the state’s long-term-care ombudsman.

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