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10 News Investigators: More allegations of abuse at Florida Institute of Neurologic Rehabilitation

10:20 AM, Dec 11, 2012   |    comments
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WAUCHULA, Florida -- The Florida Institute of Neurologic Rehabilitation (FINR) is having more problems after reports about patients dying and being abused.

The latest incident at FINR involves battery charges against a staffer, who was supposed to be caring for a brain-injured patient. The staffer reportedly struck that patient, Russell Callesen, in the mouth. 

Callesen was taken to the hospital, where he allegedly received 19 stitches.

This is not the first time a patient has been injured at FINR. Owner Joseph Brennick told 10 News in October that staffers are not supposed to hit patients, but clearly it happened.

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Brennick says many of the caretakers -- who are paid just slightly above minimum wage -- are often not able to deal with the brain injured patients, who are often tough to deal with.

According to Brennick, the only thing he can do is fire workers when they abuse a patient. That is apparently what happened following the latest incident. Callesen says he was abused at least four times while he was a patient at FINR. The rehab institute is receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to care for Callesen.

A spokesperson for FINR told 10 News:

"An incident did occur at FINR where a staff member had an inappropriate reaction to a client's behavior and that staff member was immediately terminated. All appropriate steps were taken by FINR, including notifying the sheriff's office, as well as DCF."

The sheriff's office filed battery charges against both Callesen and the fired staffer. While Callesen may have lashed out at the staffer, FINR policy prohibits employees from striking a patient in any form.

FINR, which continues to maintain it provides high-level care for some of the most vulnerable people in society, has yet to satisfy an order from the state to come into compliance with its license. 

The Agency for Health Care Administration is expected to take action against the organization in the next two weeks with a comprehensive report and plan, and we are told it will address that FINR is caring for more than 50 patients that it is not licensed to deal with. 

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