TAMPA, Fla — U.S. Representative Charlie Crist sent letters to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar requesting "a full investigation into this tragedy and a longer scope investigation into the regulation and oversight of long-term care facilities across the state" according to an email sent to 10 Investigates Wednesday.
Freedom Square was one of the first and hardest hit long-term care facilities impacted by COVID-19 in the Tampa Bay area. According to the Florida Department of Health database, more than 30 people who lived or worked there died.
According to a release from Crist's office, this is the third time in six months he has called for action and transparency from the state of Florida.
“The families of those who have lost loved ones deserve nothing less than a full accounting of what went wrong and full accountability for those responsible,” Crist wrote in a statement. “Going forward we must also raise our expectations for long-term care facilities in our state. This issue will not be solved overnight, and I will carry the fight for higher standards and increased oversight for long-term care facilities into the new Biden Administration under HHS Secretary-Designate Xavier Becerra.”
In the letters, Crist states: "I request that you order a separate investigation into the clearly inadequate regulation and oversight of Florida's long-term care facilities that once again led to the senseless and - I would argue - the preventable deaths of Floridians who live or recover in our long-term care facilities."
Freedom Square released the following response Wednesday night:
Freedom Square is aware of the news release sent out by Congressman Crist earlier today. We have reached out to Congressman Crist’s office to invite him to the community and initiate a productive dialogue so he can see the lengths we have gone to protect the health and well-being of our community.
From the outset of the pandemic, Freedom Square has tried to prevent, mitigate and manage the spread of the deadly coronavirus, and we have sought guidance and maintained open lines of communication with our regulatory agencies and public health officials. Our initiatives have included updating procedures and enhancing our infectious disease protocols as guidance from federal, state, and local agencies became available. Despite our efforts and strict adherence to our protocols, we have not been able to avoid this ruthless virus reaching our residents and staff. COVID-19 has had a devastating impact around the globe, and we are deeply saddened by the losses we have experienced at Freedom Square. We send our deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of those individuals affected.
We will continue to evolve our practices throughout the pandemic based on new knowledge and information gained from our own experience and the experience of so many others. We vow to continue to do all in our power to protect our community from this deadly disease, while being open and transparent in our communication to residents, families and employees at all times.