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Florida Nursing Homes Responsible for Storm Preparedness

In the aftermath of the devastation wrought by a colossal, deadly tornado in Oklahoma recently, we began hearing calls for storm preparedness at facilities that house our most vulnerable.
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This talk has primarily centered on schools, as nine of the two dozen killed were children, hunkered down in a poorly-constructed elementary school.

This is a discussion with which Floridians are familiar, as our state is well-known for powerful hurricanes, sudden lightning strikes and even deadly tornadoes. Our Fort Pierce nursing home negligence attorneys know that the safety of nursing home residents must not be overlooked.

The aftermath of what we saw in New York nursing homes after Hurricane Sandy shows us why we can’t become complacent. There, The New York Times reports, nursing home residents at one facility in Queens failed to provide even the most basic care to patients during and after the storm. There wasn’t enough food or medication stocked up for an emergency. There wasn’t additional staff on hand either. Even the nursing home director left, and did not return until after the storm had passed. For more than 24 hours, patients were cold, hungry, in pain and literally in the dark, trapped with the first floor flooded.

By the following evening, EMS crews arrived and decided it was so bad that at least 200 patients had to be evacuated to emergency city shelters. The transition involved no staff members accompanying patients, many of whom were forced to travel without medical records – both violations of state law. Without those records, some patients were unable to tell anyone who they were or what they needed. Family members spent weeks in some cases, searching for loved ones who were stuck in emergency shelters or in other nursing homes throughout the region.

Scenarios like this remind us why all nursing homes must have staff that is well-trained and solid preparedness policies inked well in advance of an environmental disaster. With Florida’s hurricane season beginning June 1, it’s a lesson we simply can’t afford to forget.

Federal law requires that all facilities that are Medicare/Medicaid-certified have written plans and procedures that will meet all potential emergencies, as well as have adequate training for employees.

An August 2006 report on nursing home emergency preparedness by the Office of the Inspector General found that the vast majority of nursing homes in Gulf states had adequate written emergency preparedness plans. However, 20 percent failed to have adequate emergency training for staffers.

What’s more, almost every nursing home evaluated in its reaction after a recent storm had some type of problem that related back to a lack of emergency planning or a failure to properly execute that emergency plan. Whether the facility evacuated or sheltered in place, the IG found that many facilities struggled with issues of maintaining a basic level of supplies, staff and services. Many patients suffered dehydration, skin tears and depression.

Freeman, Mallard, Sharp & Gonzalez — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:
Nursing Home Is Faulted Over Care After Storm, Nov. 9, 2013, By Michael Powell and Sheri Fink, The New York Times

More Blog Entries:
Port St. Lucie Nursing Home Abuse Lawyers Applaud New Law, May 15, 2013, Fort Pierce Nursing Home Negligence Lawyer Blog

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