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A nursing home in Miami Gardens is shutting down its children’s unit following the death of two children and safety fines totaling $300,000.

Golden Glades Nursing & Rehabilitation Center has announced that its 60-bed pediatric unit will be closing. The move is the latest chapter in an ongoing dispute over the placement of seriously sick and disabled children in Florida nursing homes.

Health regulators fined Golden Glades $300,000 in September 2011 – one of the largest nursing home fines in Florida history – in connection with the death of a 14-year-old girl with cerebral palsy who died after caregivers neglected to give her life-sustaining anti-seizure drugs. The girl had been admitted to the home only 12 hours before.

That tragedy came a little more than a year after the death of a teenage boy at the same facility.

There are around 19 children residing at Golden Glades, down from 30 as of late 2012. The Miami Herald has run a series of investigative stories about the state’s program of placing disabled children in homes like Golden Glades that were originally intended to care for senior citizens.

According to a January 31 story in the Herald, the Golden Glades Nursing & Rehabilitation Center, about one week ago, relayed state health administrators of its plan to close down the severely criticized pediatric unit.

Florida’s decision to house hundreds of profoundly disabled children in institutions designed for elders has drawn fire, both from children’s advocates and the U.S. Justice Department, which is accusing the state of cutting in-home care for frail children by so much that parents often are given no choice but to institutionalize their young ones.

In the entire state, Golden Glades is one of the six nursing homes that is licensed to care for children. Its problems are highlighted in a series of Miami Herald stories, and include two deaths and a series of state and federal fines that amount to over $300,000.

The story of 14-year-old Marie Freyre received widespread attention after the circumstances of her death were reported in the Miami Herald and elsewhere.
The teenager suffered from severe cerebral palsy and a seizure disorder, and was taken away from her mother. Against her mother’s wishes, she was sent to Golden Glades by private ambulance. She was not given anti-seizure drugs, records show, and she died of a heart attack soon after admission.

Other problems at Golden Glades as reported by the Herald in the past two years:

  • Failure to adequately staff the children’s wing, leaving 17 children in the care of only one staff member during activities
  • Failure to investigate how a resident broke a bone, as the law requires
  • Failure to notify a child’s parents or guardians after the child was sent by ambulance to a hospital for emergency treatment.

For more information:

Miami Herald: “Under Fire, Miami-Dade Nursing Home Closing” 

Miami Herald: “DCH Chief Inspects Miami Gardens”