Tampa, FL (Law Firm Newswire) May 22, 2017 - Advocates for nursing home residents have raised concerns about the amount of information that the state of Florida is withholding from nursing home inspection reports, including dates, places and pivotal words.
Watchdog groups say that while it is legitimate to censor personal information such as the names of residents from such reports, the state is withholding critical data, preventing the public from accessing the information the reports are supposed to contain.
“Nursing home residents have the right to a safe and hygienic environment, and the public has the right to know when skilled nursing facilities fall short of the standards they are required to meet,” said Robert Joyce, an attorney with the Tampa firm of Joyce & Reyes, who represents injured nursing home residents. “Access to this information is crucial for nursing home residents and their families.”
The Orlando Sentinel reported on the increase in the amount of inspection information blacked out by the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA), which is responsible for the reports. The newspaper published excerpts from redacted reports, showing that many details were omitted, making it difficult to understand what happened in a particular incident. Brian Lee, leader of the group Families for Better Care, called the heavy redaction “shocking,” and said that the state began withholding more information in 2016.
The AHCA said that it is merely trying to protect personal health information as required by federal privacy laws. Shelisha Coleman, the AHCA’s press secretary, said that while information such as names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers have always been redacted, the agency believes that other information, if not redacted, could be used in combination to identify a particular resident. However, Coleman could not identify a situation where that had happened. She also said that the agency recently began using an automated redaction process, and some information may have been blacked out inadvertently.
Joyce and Reyes Law Firm, P.A.
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Tampa, FL 33606
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