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Nursing home closure forces resident to live in a hospital | News

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Nursing home closure forces resident to live in a hospital
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SARASOTA, Fla. -- A Sarasota nursing home that the state ordered to shut down has closed its doors even earlier than expected.

The state had insisted that Harmony Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center stop operating by September 22, but the Agency for Health Care Administration says the last patient was discharged on September 12.

The nursing facility had its state and federal funding cut off last month after inspectors uncovered a series of alleged violations, from not documenting when narcotics were distributed to patients, to one instance in which the facility made a patient's medical decisions after failing to collect paperwork that would have allowed her a legal guardian.

While most families of the residents at Harmony found other nursing homes soon after the shutdown was announced last month, one family is enduring a situation that's heartbreaking for them and more costly for taxpayers. Elizabeth Pitchford's son, Todd, has cerebral palsy and depends on a ventilator. For two and a half years, he lived at Harmony, one of the only facilities in the state to accept long-term ventilator patients.

By the time Harmony shut its doors, no other facility was willing to accept Todd, and he was taken to Sarasota Memorial Hospital - not because he's sick, but because there's nowhere else for him to go.

"It's very hard to take. He's a sad person right now," Pitchford says. "I would think it would be costing Medicaid more money to put him in an intensive unit than it would be to put him in a nursing home."

report from The Florida Department of Health shows that for years the state has been concerned with ventilator-dependent patients staying in hospitals because there's no nursing home for them. The report says putting an end to that could save a lot of money for Medicaid and for taxpayers.

Patricia Duncan, a psychosocial case manager at Sarasota Memorial, says the hospital doesn't often see long-term ventilator patients who can't find a nursing facility. However, when it does happen, Medicaid pays more for the level of care at a hospital than in a nursing facility. 

"Acute care is more expensive in general than nursing homes," Duncan says. "There are extremely limited amount of nursing homes that offer long-term vent care for patients and they're having to go farther and farther away."

That could eventually be the case for Todd. His family fears he could be sent to a nursing facility out of state and too far away from his family in Tampa Bay.

"Who knows how long we'll have to wait?" Pitchford says.

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