NAPLES, Fla.- Patients come to the Willough at Naples for deeply personal and private reasons. They shy away from sharing those on camera. Off camera, patients alerted us to a situation inside that the Agency for Health Care Administration openly describes as "persistent."
The Willough at Naples is a mental health hospital taking care of people struggling with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, manic depression and addiction.
AHCA has routinely inspected and found violations that the agency says have not been corrected.
"Violations that have been cited and not corrected through the process have persisted through the review process. So that's how I use persistent. So it is ongoing non-compliance that hasn't been corrected to date," said Pauly Weaver with AHCA.
CALL FOR ACTION went through dozens of inspection reports dating back to 2008 showing violations by the facility.
A majority of the repeat citations involve dirty facilities and nurses mishandling patient medication.
One violation from June 2011 shows a patient tested positive for Hepatitis C. However the report reflects no one distributed that information to the patient or his nurses.
That same June 2011 report shows the facility was cited because three mentally ill patients were found unsupervised by the canal behind the Willough. One was trying to feed an alligator while another was reportedly trying to lasso the alligator with a rope.
The report also remarked that risk management personnel failed to recognize it was a danger to have a psychiatric patient unsupervised with a rope.
Probably the most disturbing violation came in September of 2011. Weaver says that violation caused AHCA great concern. The inspector wrote in her September survey report during an interview with a patient, she discovered that patient had told a nurse his roommate sexually assaulted him while he was sleeping.
According to the report, the nurse didn't report it to police or DCF. The report also notes the nurse made the patient go back to the room with the perpetrator to sleep.
The AHCA inspector called the Collier County Sheriff's Office and filed a report but DCF was never notified.
"We made the determination that this non-compliance that was associated with the concerns was so severe that the patients there were at risk of severe harm or injury," said Weaver.
AHCA gave the Willough 20 days to take action and reports show Willough administrators fired that nurse. The facility was placed back in compliance.
It's not the first time the facility has been in trouble for that issue. In 2004, a female patient sued the Willough. Her suit alleged a male nurse repeatedly sexually assaulted her. The lawsuit also alleged the facility never background checked that employee. However, the suit was later dropped.
Despite all of these incidents and allegations, the facility has never been shut down, continues to receive medicare funds, and has only paid $2250 in fines.
We contacted the Willough about the allegations. Nobody would return our calls until we showed up at the Willough to get answers. When the manager of the facility spotted our camera, he called CALL FOR ACTION back via cell phone.
Over the phone he said he would not go on camera, but that the facility responds to AHCA. He told us to consult the AHCA report for their response to each allegation.
Though we reiterated we wanted to give him ample chance to respond to the allegations on camera, he declined.
AHCA says it's still determining what further action to take against the facility.
"The hospital is required to come into substantial compliance and when we conduct visits that we are unable to clear the deficiencies because appropriate actions have not been taken then that's an uncorrected deficiency," said Weaver, "And the hospital is at risk of sanctions because of the non-compliance that is ongoing."
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid has a different take. Over the phone a spokeswoman told me though the facility was initially placed on what they call immediate jeopardy. The state conducted a re-inspection in September. The spokeswoman says the facility is now in full compliance so the Willough is still receiving medicare patients and funds.
However, AHCA says this issue is ongoing and will conduct follow up surveys to determine if the Willough should face fines or sanctions for what they describe as a pattern of being in and out of compliance.
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