Home Healthcare: qaulifications questioned

Insiders give reasons for industry problems

The images prompted reaction.

Home health aides hired to care, caught on cameras caring less.

After snapping photos and video of two home health aides sleeping on the job, Palm Beach Gardens mom, Trish Armand, had enough.

"It's really just a paycheck, that's what I have found in the quality of people who are coming to take care of my son."  Armand's son, Mikey, is 6 years old and was born with a rare cell disease called mucolipidosis type 2.

 Bob Quinn sits on the board for the Home Care Association of Florida, a statewide trade organization.

"We're paying these people to care for these people, not to sleep on the job," he says when we asked him for reaction to the Armand case. But Quinn is quick to add, " There are deficiencies in the system, of course.   Have you found any system that doesn't have its deficiencies?"

The Contact 5 investigators analyzed 5 years worth of home healthcare agency inspection reports, and discovered nearly 90 percent of area home health agencies have been flagged for problems since 2007.  Quinn doesn't believe the amount is alarming but he believes he knows why there are problems.

"These people are our lowest wage earners, they're expected to do a lot and they're probably underpaid for their services."

Wages for home health aides can range from $9.50- $12.50 per hour. Quinn says, low pay presents a list of challenges.

"Finding qualified people is probably at the top. There's a high turnover rate, there's a lot of stress," he says.

State Representative Gayle Harrell of Stuart has hired home health workers for her own loved ones.

Home health agencies are inspected by the state every 3 years. Agencies with frequent problems can be inspected more often, but with just 270 inspectors covering more than 30,000 patient care operations resources are limited.

To contact your local and federal lawmakers about this issue, click here.

Harrell says as long as state inspectors can keep up with the demand and complaints, there's no reason to add more. Instead she says, its important for consumers to do their own inspecting.

"My advice to consumers is to shop around, talk to your neighbors. Make sure you get a reputable agency.  Look at the record and see who has complaints and who doesn't. "

Investigative Producer Lynn Walsh contributed to this story.

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