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Pensacola News Journal

Viewpoint: Murzin understands problems our nursing homes face

March 27, 2009

By Sharyn Figgins

I was disheartened to read the March 6 viewpoint, "What does Dave Murzin have against the elderly?" attacking state Rep. Dave Murzin, R-Pensacola, and nursing homes. I believe the writer projected Murzin's legislation in a negative manner when the bills are actually positive for our elderly.

I am the director of nursing at Rosewood Manor, a skilled nursing facility, and can tell you that providing the quality care to these frail individuals deserve requires a lot of caring staff working together.

Ms. Atteberry writes about an economy "scaring even the most confident of business owners" yet wants increased staffing when Florida enforces one of the highest staffing ratios in the country. We need to be able to pay our dedicated employees a decent salary.

Rep. Murzin's latest bill would not make it easier to "cover up acts of abuse and neglect" by decreasing inspections, it would merely prevent duplicate inspections which take staff away from the resident's bedside and cost taxpayers unnecessary dollars. Nursing homes have week-long annual inspections by a surveyor team composed of nurses, dieticians, social workers and more.

In addition, inspectors for the Ombudsman Program, Adult Protective Services and the state Agency for Healthcare Administration (AHCA) investigate concerns, especially abuse and neglect, whenever they are contacted. They may be called by anyone with concerns: residents, families, employees, or visitors. The nursing home must post, in a public place, the contact information for these agencies.

We appreciate the security it gives our residents and families to know they can contact outside agencies with concerns. Our surveys and inspections are not "secret," but are also posted in a public area in each nursing home and on the AHCA Web site.

Nursing homes have had to fight to protect Medicaid funding for our residents year after year, and the precious resources that are needed to pay for the staff caring for our elderly should not be wasted on frivolous lawsuits.

Rep. Murzin's legislative history shows that he understands the complexities of caring for our most vulnerable citizens. He has visited with nursing homes in our area and has taken the time to understand the importance of allowing us to focus on caring for our residents versus filling out paperwork behind a desk.

I applaud him for standing up for our elderly by working to ensure nursing homes can remain in the business of providing this critical care that many of us may rely on in the future.

Sharyn Figgins is director of nursing at Rosewood Manor in Pensacola. She is president of the Pensacola chapter of the Florida Association Directors of Nursing Administration/LTC.