Monday, June 4, 2007

Neglected and Forgotten in Florida

Time for a Press Conference, Ms. Dorelien—The finger-pointers have become more important than the main story, while the truth behind what did or did not happen to an 85-year-old autistic man—who for nearly two years resided at a Palmetto, Fla. assisted living facility—has been pushed to the outer rim of the narrative. And, exactly who failed him remains unclear.

Ronald Larsen lived at the Palmetto Guest Home from June 2005 until he was removed by his court-appointed guardian, Ashley Butler, in March. Jacqueline Dorelien took over the operation of the home in July 2006.

Last week Butler—with the help of Tampa news station WFLA-TV—publicly accused Dorelien, the home’s operator, of elder neglect, charging that a cancerous lesion festered on Larsen’s face while he was under her care, and she nothing about it.

Florida State Senator Ronda Storms(R), who chairs Committee on Children, Families, and Elder Affairs, pressed the state to take action. And within the same week that WFLA-TV began airing its multi-part series Neglected and Forgotten, Dorelien was arrested and charged with felony “neglect of an elderly person.”

And after seeking an emergency order to close the 112-bed facility, the Florida Agency for Healthcare Administration (AHCA) evacuated the more than 70 residents, effectively putting Dorelien and the Palmetto Guest Home out of business.

But before the state’s unannounced shutdown, ACHA had indicated that the agency would levy a $31,000 fine against Dorelien, pending a 21-day appeal period. And Dorelien, according to sources, planned to fight the charges.

During last-week’s-long shakedown, Dorelien refused to speak out, while relying on the counter-accusatory claims her attorney levied against state officials to mitigate the damage. Additional information regarding the Larsen case has come from Dorelien’s supporters, some of whom have made their share of off-the-record and damning allegations against the state, Butler and even Larsen’s physician—who claimed the home failed to follow medical orders on Larsen’s behalf.

As much as Southernglobal would love to gain access to Larsen’s medical records and report information to substantiate the allegations or counter-allegations about his care while at Palmetto Guest Home, patient privacy laws prohibit it. Dorelien isn’t providing the information, anyway.

But if this entire drama is to be played out in the media—and if Dorelien has something to say about what happen to Ronald Larsen during his stay at her facility—it’s time to take her place on the public stage, too.

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