Fla. Fires Nursing Home Advocate; Group Calls for Probe

[This article was originally published on March 4, 2011.  The links were updated on June 28, 2018.]

A nursing home advocacy group is calling on the federal government to investigate Florida governor Rick Scott's recent removal of the director of the state's Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program.

Every state is required to have an ombudsman program that serves as an independent voice for nursing home residents -- addressing resident complaints and advocating for improvements in the long-term care system. As ElderLawAnswers reported earlier, shortly after taking office Gov. Scott ousted Brian Lee, who during his seven years directing Florida's ombudsman program had gained a reputation as a staunch advocate for the elderly. After Scott, a Republican, won the governorship last November, the Florida Assisted Living Association, an industry group, sent him a letter recommending an individual to replace Lee, one who would presumably be friendlier to their industry.

Lee's removal has alarmed The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care, a leading advocate for long-term care residents nationwide. In a letter to the head of U.S. Administration on Aging, the Consumer Voice's Executive Director Sarah F. Wells charges that "Mr. Lee was forced to resign from office at the request and recommendation of nursing home and assisted living operators." Wells calls on the federal agency to "investigate the reasons for Lee's dismissal as potential willful interference and detrimental impact on the ability of the State Ombudsman to advocate on behalf of the long-term care residents of the state," and notes that willful interference with the ombudsman's job is illegal.

Some of the state's 17 councils of volunteer ombudsmen are considering legal action and/or filing a formal complaint with the U.S. Attorney General.