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CBS4 Miami

I-Team: Long-Term Care Facility Answers Questions

Aug 20, 2009

Reporting
Michele Gillen

MIAMI (CBS4) ― It was painful to watch: A man in his wheelchair, offering to show CBS4 News cameras again and again, how he has to struggle to exit a set of double doors at the Munne assisted living facility in West Kendall, where he lives. There's no handicap button or working latch to keep the doors open.

“Did you see what he has to go through to get in and out of there?" Chief Investigator Michele Gillen asked the center's just appointed administrator.

"I understand, but they broke it themselves, we ordered the part, they broke it themselves pushing the door open, slamming it. It's not their fault, but it was broken from the residents," Olga Munoz tells Gillen.

The Munne Center is a facility many advocates for the elderly considered broken. It came under state scrutiny after a 71-year-old woman suffering from Alzheimer's was allegedly raped there by another resident, 33-year-old Darryl McGee. The I-Team uncovered McGee's history of arrests prior to moving into the Alzheimer's wing, among the most vulnerable. The rape happened on a night when a nurse's aide allegedly walked out.

"Without telling anyone, horrible tragedy," says Sean Ellsworth, attorney for the facility's owner.

But that was the past, and Munoz, who has been on staff there for more than a year, but just appointed administrator, says change is underway.

"For one thing there is plenty more staff," Munoz explains.

Following the rape, the state determined that the facility had not provided proper protection for the residents and entered into a settlement with the Munne Center that requires specific oversight for it to remain open.

That's not good enough, according to the Florida Ombudsmen—volunteers who work to protect the rights of the elderly.

"In our state the Munne Center has had more ombudsmen investigations than any other facility in the state of Florida," said Clare Caldwell, Regional Director for the Ombudsmen.

Gillen asked Munoz for her response to those investigation and criticisms by the Ombudsmen. "I think they take it out of proportion. If you come in here to interview an Alzheimer's patients, they don't have credibility," says Munoz.

A condition in the settlement is a mandate that health consultant Angeline Downing be employed at Munne to essentially provide an extra level of eyes and ears. She must file bi-monthly reports on what she's found, including staff training, resident grievances and solutions.

While she is mandated to be the consultant, she told Gillen that there was a period of time, "That I was not here. I would estimate maybe 5 or 6 months."

Downing reiterated the news directly to Munoz. "I didn't come for several months, there were issues and I just could not come."

Gillen asked Munoz if she knew the consultant had missed several months.

"No, back then I wasn't the administrator," said Munoz.

Gillen asked the same of attorney, Sean Ellsworth.

"Did you know that she was not here for several months?" Gillen asked.

"I didn't, no," Ellsworth answered.

Gillen asked if someone should have advised him if she wasn't here for several months?"

"Yep." says Ellsworth.

Meanwhile officials at the Agency for Healthcare Administration tell CBS4 News that they did not know nor were informed that Angeline Downing did not serve as consultant at the center those months as stipulated in the agreement and say they plan to look into the matter. They also tell us that just this June they received they those bimonthly reports --that were supposed to be filed with them starting last November. After checking, Attorney Ellsworth told CBS4 that another health consultant had stepped in to fill in that gap during the time Downing was not present. “Did you see what he has to go through to get in and out of there?" Chief Investigator Michele Gillen asked the center's just appointed administrator.

"I understand, but they broke it themselves, we ordered the part, they broke it themselves pushing the door open, slamming it. It's not their fault, but it was broken from the residents," Olga Munoz tells Gillen.

The Munne Center is a facility many advocates for the elderly considered broken. It came under state scrutiny after a 71-year-old woman suffering from Alzheimer's was allegedly raped there by another resident, 33-year-old Darryl McGee. The I-Team uncovered McGee's history of arrests prior to moving into the Alzheimer's wing, among the most vulnerable. The rape happened on a night when a nurse's aide allegedly walked out.

"Without telling anyone, horrible tragedy," says Sean Ellsworth, attorney for the facility's owner.

But that was the past, and Munoz, who has been on staff there for more than a year, but just appointed administrator, says change is underway.

"For one thing there is plenty more staff," Munoz explains.

Following the rape, the state determined that the facility had not provided proper protection for the residents and entered into a settlement with the Munne Center that requires specific oversight for it to remain open.

That's not good enough, according to the Florida Ombudsmen—volunteers who work to protect the rights of the elderly.

"In our state the Munne Center has had more ombudsmen investigations than any other facility in the state of Florida," said Clare Caldwell, Regional Director for the Ombudsmen.

Gillen asked Munoz for her response to those investigation and criticisms by the Ombudsmen. "I think they take it out of proportion. If you come in here to interview an Alzheimer's patients, they don't have credibility," says Munoz.

A condition in the settlement is a mandate that health consultant Angeline Downing be employed at Munne to essentially provide an extra level of eyes and ears. She must file bi-monthly reports on what she's found, including staff training, resident grievances and solutions.

While she is mandated to be the consultant, she told Gillen that there was a period of time, "That I was not here. I would estimate maybe 5 or 6 months."

Downing reiterated the news directly to Munoz. "I didn't come for several months, there were issues and I just could not come."

Gillen asked Munoz if she knew the consultant had missed several months.

"No, back then I wasn't the administrator," said Munoz.

Gillen asked the same of attorney, Sean Ellsworth.

"Did you know that she was not here for several months?" Gillen asked.

"I didn't, no," Ellsworth answered.

Gillen asked if someone should have advised him if she wasn't here for several months?"

"Yep." says Ellsworth.

Meanwhile officials at the Agency for Healthcare Administration tell CBS4 News that they did not know nor were informed that Angeline Downing did not serve as consultant at the center those months as stipulated in the agreement and say they plan to look into the matter. They also tell us that just this June they received they those bimonthly reports --that were supposed to be filed with them starting last November. After checking, Attorney Ellsworth told CBS4 that another health consultant had stepped in to fill in that gap during the time Downing was not present.

Michele Gillen can be reached at MGillen@wfor.cbs.com