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Patient-on-patient violence leads to retirement home shut-down

While stories of nursing home and assisted living facility abuse and neglect continue to make headlines in Florida and across the nation, one subject you hear very little about is the violence often perpetrated by one resident against another. However, this is exactly one of the reasons why the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration shut down the Good Samaritan Retirement Home in Williston last December.

Good Samaritan had a long history of violations and received more sanctions over the preceding five years than any other assisted living facility in the state. It had paid $73,750 in fines during that period. The particular incident that started the shut-down move occurred on Oct. 3, 2017, when the facility’s closed-circuit surveillance system videoed a 52-year-old resident beating an 86-year-old resident after accusing the victim of eating his cupcake.

Horrific video

The video shows the younger resident punching the older resident 56 times in two minutes while the latter lay curled up on the floor of a commons area of the facility’s secured unit. Several other residents attempted to stop the “fight,” but others continued to calmly watch TV only a few feet away. Staff finally arrived a full 30 seconds after the beating ended.

Law enforcement officers ultimately arrived at the scene and obtained the video. The Gainesville Sun reported the incident, and the video then went viral when CNN picked up the story. Subsequent police reports revealed that the victim suffered from dementia and the assailant had a previous traumatic brain injury. He also had a history of assault and battery arrests, but never faced prosecution due to his mental incapacity. Law enforcement officers did not arrest him on Oct. 3, either, for the same reason. Instead, they took him somewhere for evaluation, but that presumed medical facility returned him to Good Samaritan shortly thereafter.

Another patient dies

Less than one month after the beating, another Good Samaritan patient, this one a 72-year-old female, died after she fell in the facility’s parking lot and hit her head. Staff neither took her to a hospital nor informed her daughter or health care provider about her injury. Instead, Good Samaritan’s administrator said she followed “established protocol” by allowing the woman to refuse medical treatment since “the wound was not actively bleeding and she was conscious and responsive.”

She placed the patient in the facility’s special “memory ward” for monitoring. Despite facility records alleging hourly routine monitoring, staff found the patient unresponsive six hours later and called 911. When police arrived, they found her gasping for air and with blood on her head and hands. She later died at a local hospital.

Three-month process

On Nov. 22, 2017, seven weeks after the dementia patient’s October beating and nearly three weeks after the fall victim’s death, the Agency for Health Care Administration placed a moratorium on new Good Samaritan admissions. On Dec. 10, the Agency filed its Good Samaritan report, noting numerous problems, including the fact that the majority of staff personnel spoke only Spanish while all patients spoke only English. On Dec. 11, police arrested the facility’s administrator and another employee on charges of neglect of the elderly with regard to yet a third patient incident.

After a Dec. 19 conference call with frustrated Williston law enforcement personnel, State Senator Lauren Book contacted the Agency and it immediately filed an emergency suspension order of Good Samaritan’s license. Ultimately the facility was shut down on Dec. 23.

While it would be comforting to think that the Good Samaritan case is an extreme and rare example of elderly abuse and the amount of time it takes to close down a facility that participates in it, national publicity does not equate to rarity, only the reports thereof. If your parent or other loved one resides in a nursing home or assisted care facility, you would do well to take a proactive approach with regard to his or her health, safety and welfare.

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