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'Licensing loophole' bill to protect patients passes unanimously

10Investigates exposed a serious problem. Now, Florida's governor could soon sign a solution into law.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida Lawmakers acted quickly after 10Investigates first showed them their latest investigation, Licensing Loophole.

The 10News investigative team uncovered a local certified nursing assistant – accused of inappropriately touching patients all the way back to 2016 – continued to work from place, to place, to place.

He even pleaded no contest to a battery of a patient in 2018. After that, he worked three more jobs before being arrested again for sexual battery on patients at multiple nursing home facilities.

“Everybody that read your reporting was shocked that a person like this, who had previous instances of battery, particular in setting with vulnerable people, was able to continue to work and we were appalled he was able to be hired based on his previous conduct,” Florida Rep. Chris Sprowls said.

Sprowls pushed to get an amendment added to not one, but two bills. He's a Republican who represents the 65th District, which includes Pinellas County, where the certified nursing assistant worked.

“There should never be an instance where someone like this who’s hurt someone else in a setting, like this in a hospital, is then able to go and work in a nursing home and have a potential for other victims. It’s appalling that it was able to happen,” Sprowls said.

He pushed last-minute amendments to HB1143 and HB713 would change the way healthcare employees are screened.

Credit: AP
Rep. Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, left, confers with Rep. Jay Trumbull, R-Panama City, during session Friday March 13, 2020 in Tallahassee, Fla. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon)

Rep. Chris Latvala also represents Pinellas County in Tallahassee. He filed the amendment that would close a loophole. Basically, if it becomes law, anyone who hurts patients or residents will now be disqualified from working in certain health care facilities for getting certain health care licenses.

“This will protect our most vulnerable who are receiving care in health care facilities from being victimized or violated while receiving treatment or long term care. We trust that the health care personnel is there to do their job and not prey on the patients as a potential victim," Latvala said in a statement to 10Investigates.

"If they have a questionable history, we need to fully investigate all claims and not allow them to further their career in a field meant to nurture and care for people who are in these health care facilities for any length of time, whether it is 1 day or for the rest of their life. We need to protect them.”

HB713 passed unanimously in the House and was then sent to the Senate.

Sen. Ed Hooper, who promised 10Investigates he would get answers after learning about the CNA in his district, pushed on the Senate floor for the bill to be passed.

“In my district, I had a health care provider on numerous occasions who had inappropriate acts on vulnerable patients. He would commit act after act and department of health says until he’s convicted we can’t take action,” Sen. Hooper told his colleagues.

The Bill passed unanimously as well in the Senate.

"A great deal has been said about fake news, but when journalism is done with integrity and the public’s interest prioritized, reporting is a powerful tool for change. I appreciate Channel 10 bringing the damaging loophole in our public safety laws to our attention. Speaker Designate Chris Sprowls crafted an excellent solution that will soon become law. Together we can be proud that Floridians will be protected against predators that should go nowhere near our most vulnerable,” Senate President Designate Wilton Simpson said.

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