By Terrence McCoy
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On Friday, January 26, shortly after New Times published a second story detailing problems at Carlyle on the Bay, a Miami assisted-living facility, a team of state officials imposed a freeze on admissions. Citing multiple violations of state regulations, inspectors from Florida's Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) hand-delivered an "Order for Immediate Moratorium" to Carlyle administrator Rose Wilson. The action, prompted by uncorrected infractions from a past investigation and new violations detected during a recent inspection, is the most severe taken by AHCA against the Carlyle after more than eleven years of chronic deficiencies.
The most recent article, "There's No Place Like This Home" (January 25), chronicled the demise of 81-year-old Joseph Witten, whose death in his apartment went undiscovered for several days, a violation of laws that require assisted-living facilities (ALFs) to check on residents daily. The Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner's Office did not establish a cause of death, though cardiac arrest was suspected.
According to an AHCA spokeswoman, eight inspectors continue to monitor the Carlyle's staff as they work to correct the violations that resulted in the moratorium. For about five hours each day, two officials from the team are on-site at the facility, located just north of the former Omni Mall at 1900 N. Bayshore Dr. The state may be investigating other suspected infractions as well, though AHCA will not comment on active investigations. "They're in the dining room, they're on the floor, they're surveying everything," says one Carlyle employee who requests anonymity. According to the employee, the state inspectors have had at least five elderly residents removed from the Carlyle and placed in hospitals. AHCA inspectors reportedly are scrutinizing the facility's bookkeeping as well.
Carlyle on the Bay "continues to have ongoing systemic administrative and supervisory problems," according to the moratorium's supporting documents. One example: The number of caretakers on staff does not meet minimum state requirements. During a January 25 inspection, for instance, just twelve caretakers, three of them nurses, were available for the Carlyle's 157 residents. Another violation involved a January 2 incident in which a Carlyle employee called a taxi to transport two sick patients to a hospital instead of arranging for appropriate emergency transportation.
Before imposing the moratorium, AHCA inspectors found that previous infractions discovered last fall had not been corrected. Carlyle employees who administer medication and supervise residents who take their own medicine did so in an unsafe manner, in violation of standards enforced by AHCA. On January 25 inspectors also determined that resident records remained incomplete and out of date. AHCA has fined the Carlyle on numerous occasions for those very same violations. Indeed, says Alberta Granger, supervisor of AHCA's assisted-living-facility unit, the Carlyle has been "chronically noncompliant."
Carlyle on the Bay is a for-profit enterprise owned by Chicago businessmen Burton Jay Weisberg, Harvey Silverstone, and Stanley Neimark. Weisberg flew to Miami upon learning that AHCA had placed the facility under a moratorium. "We're doing everything we can to rectify the situation," he says, declining further comment.
The three co-owners and their on-site staff must correct the violations, though AHCA has not established a deadline for doing so. "It all depends on what kind of progress the facility is making in correcting deficiencies and if there are no more deficiencies cited," Granger says. Rose Wilson, the Carlyle's administrator, must submit to AHCA a plan addressing the problems; Granger has yet to receive one.
Granger concedes that AHCA should have taken action against the Carlyle earlier and cannot explain why her agency waited so long. "I really don't know," she admits.