Most of Florida’s nursing homes and assisted living facilities have not yet acquired generator backup for air conditioning this hurricane season, despite a state law mandating they do so by a deadline of June 1st. That’s according to information from the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA), as reported by AARP.
This mandate came about after the devastating hurricane season we had last year, during which 12 residents of a nursing home in Hollywood died when the facility went days without power in sweltering temperatures without seeking outside assistance – despite the fact that there was an air-conditioned hospital right across the street, sparking national outrage. State lawmakers passed a measure requiring facilities to secure an emergency power source on site and also to have a written plan in the event of evacuation in the event similar circumstances arise in the future (as they are likely to do). The law also stipulates that nursing home generator backup systems must function to keep facilities at a stable temperature of at or below 81 degrees for 96 hours after an outage of power.
As of one week prior to the deadline, only about 100 of Florida’s nearly 700 nursing homes had met the new statutory standards. Fewer than 350 requested an extension from the state. Of the more than 3,100 assisted living centers in Florida, only 205 met the requirements by deadline, with about 350 asking for more time. The nursing homes and assisted living facilities that are granted an extension will have another six months. But of course, as our Fort Lauderdale nursing home injury lawyers probably don’t need to point out, this will be well past the 2018 hurricane season, which means scores of vulnerable and elderly residents will be at risk of a tragic repeat, which occurred in the wake of last year’s monster storm amid an especially active season.
The state has required those facilities requesting an extension provide evidence there is either a plan in place to keep residents cool in the event of a power outage or else a plan to evacuate them to a safer location.
The Florida Health Care Association, which represents some 80 percent of Florida nursing homes, said that many facilities did file those plans with the state before the June deadline, but the state is grappling with a backlog in processing approval of those.
It’s worth pointing out that federal laws already require nursing homes and assisted living homes to have approved disaster drills in place, and those must be submitted every year for review by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Florida’s new law piggy-backs off this in adding additional requirements. The state has warned those facilities that they could be slapped with significant fines if they aren’t compliant with the law.
It’s not clear why so many Florida nursing homes would not be compliant, given the fact that they can dip into Medicaid coffers to cover the expenses (as opposed to assisted living facilities, which don’t have that option).
The FHCA has reportedly arranged partnership with a number of power companies across the state so power restoration of power to nursing homes in the event of a severe storm or other disaster is a top priority.
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