Proposals requiring nursing homes and assisted living facilities to have emergency generators and sufficient fuel supplies to operate those generators during power outages were signed into law Monday morning by Gov. Rick Scott. The measures were among Scott’s priorities during this  year’s legislative session.

The bills, SB 7028 and HB 7099, were signed by Scott during a bill signing ceremony at a long-term facility in Fort Myers. The new laws make permanent an emergency order invoked by Scott last September.

“The tragedy at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills made it clear more needed to be done to ensure the protection of vulnerable Floridians during emergencies like Hurricane Irma,” Scott said. “That is why I immediately ordered state agencies to issue emergency rules requiring each nursing home and ALF in Florida to have emergency generators on hand to keep residents safe. We fought aggressively to quickly implement this life-saving rule at facilities across the state and I am proud to sign legislation today that makes this rule permanent.”

Scott initially directed the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) and the Florida Department of Elder Affairs (DEA) to issue the emergency rules immediately following the tragedy at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills in Broward County during Hurricane Irma last year.

Fourteen people died at the nursing home after the hurricane knocked out the nursing home’s air-conditioning system, resulting in sweltering conditions. Twelve of the deaths were attributed to the heat and ruled to be homicides. 

The laws require nursing homes and ALF’s to have backup power capability and adequate fuel supplies to maintain air conditioning for 72 hours after loss of electricity. It’s expected to cost operators more than $243 million over the next five years, according to estimates by DEA officials.

The House didn’t originally introduce a bill to ratify the generator rule because of concern over the cost estimates. However, House leaders agreed to take up the Senate bill on the final day of the regular session.

“Florida is one of the first states in the nation to require emergency generators at nursing homes and ALFs, and I appreciate the work of Senate President Joe Negron, House Speaker Richard Corcoran, and all the legislators who supported this important legislation,” Scott added. “As we near the 2018 hurricane season, families can now know the facilities responsible for caring for their loved ones will have the resources needed to be fully prepared ahead of any potential storms.”

In addition to the costs, organizations representing nursing homes and ALF’s argued that the emergency rules originally issued by the state did not provide long-term care facilities adequate time to purchase and install the generators. They challenged the rules and after some discussions, the governor and the long-term care industry agreed to the new terms in January.

The backup power source can be portable but must provide at least 20 square feet of cool space per resident.

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