Florida Brain-Injury Center Fights Order to Move Patients
A Florida brain-injury facility accused of abusive and substandard practices is fighting a state order to move out scores of patients, saying regulators are overstepping their authority.
The Florida Institute for Neurologic Rehabilitation, located 50 miles southeast of Tampa in rural Wauchula, told the state Friday that it would not begin the process of discharging any patients until a judge hears an appeal it filed on Aug. 28.
That action, before the Division of Administrative Hearings, alleges state regulators exceeded their authority in ordering the removal of patients and acted in an “arbitrary and capricious” way.
The dispute stems from a surprise inspection last month by three state agencies. Regulators moved in after Bloomberg News reported on dozens of cases of alleged abuse and neglect at the for-profit facility, known as FINR. Patients’ families or state agencies have accused the center’s staffers of abuse or care lapses in at least five residents’ deaths since 1998, two of them in the last two years.
Michelle Dahnke, a spokeswoman for the state’s Agency for Health Care Administration, which was sent FINR’s response, declined to comment.
State investigators determined FINR was breaching its license by treating 50 patients who weren’t brain or spinal cord injured. That represented more than half of the 98 patients whose records the state reviewed.
The state ordered FINR to submit a plan to relocate those patients to facilities “appropriate to meet their needs.”
In its response Friday, FINR said it would begin that process only if its legal challenge is unsuccessful.
The state is exceeding its authority by trying to enforce a narrow definition of brain injury limited only to patients who suffered a traumatic event, such as a car accident, FINR said. Such an interpretation unfairly denies treatment to people with other kinds of brain injuries, the company’s filing said, without specifying the injuries in question.
FINR said it was acting to address other concerns raised by regulators, including an allegation it was keeping patients too long. The company said its chief medical officer will review the length of stay for all residents to ensure appropriateness. It said such a review of current patients found they all required the treatment they were receiving or were making progress in their rehabilitation.
After initially balking at providing investigators its internal reports on incidents involving patients from the past year, FINR said Friday that it had recently made those records available.
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