50 miles southeast of Tampa is the Florida Institute for Neurologic Rehabilitation (FINR), one of the largest brain injury centers in the US with patients from across the country. In February of 2011, Melinda Jakobowski died while in the institute's care, sparking an investigation that found
breaches of care standards in her case. The Florida Department of Health recently ended the investigation, despite three allegations of
patient abuse and two
According to Bloomberg.com, FINR is licensed to care for patients suffering from
brain injuries and
spinal cord injuries, but not those with mental illnesses like Jakobowski. Reportedly, the Department of Health can only regulate the care of FINR patients with
spinal cord injuries. It is unclear which of the different Florida health care agencies has the authority to take action against the facility. As a result, investigation findings are exchanged, but nothing is done.
After Jakobowski was found unresponsive in bed with her hair wrapped around her neck, she was rushed to the hospital. She later died, sparking an investigation by the Agency for Health Care Administration. Following the investigation, ACHA notified the Department of Health that FINR failed to properly care for the patient and failed to supervise Jakobowski despite the fact that she had previously attempted to harm herself. The Department of Health claimed to be unable to do anything as Jakobowski was not a
brain injury patient.
There have allegedly been several instances of abuse at FINR against other patients with mental illnesses or autism. In the last year, charges have been filed against five employees in two different patient abuse cases. Then just after Christmas 2011, another FINR
patient diedwhen an employee fed him solid food. The patient had been injured in a
car accident and his care plan called for tube feeding due to his difficulty swallowing. An autopsy cited aspiration of food as a cause of death.
Officials from various health care oversight agencies met at the end of last week to discuss their concerns about FINR. It remains unclear why FINR is permitted to treat patients who do not have brain injuries.