The head of the association that represents Florida’s nursing home and assisted living facilities says the industry’s reputation has suffered as the result of the tragedy that happened at the Rehabilitation Center of Hollywood Hills last week.
“It’s given us (the industry) a huge black eye, unjustly,” said Emmett Reed, the executive director of the Florida Health Care Association (FHCA).
“What happened down in Hollywood Hills is unconscionable and we’re sad and sickened by it. Our hearts go out to the families,” Reed added. “With that said, we had over 600 nursing homes that took care of their residents in a safe and productive manner before, during and after Irma.”
Eight elderly residents died at the Broward County facility, which is not a member of FHCA, after a portable air cooler failed to work properly during Irma leaving the 145 residents to endure the hot temperatures in the days following the storm
Gov. Rick Scott has demanded answers.
“Assisted living facilities and nursing homes serve our elderly and Florida’s most vulnerable residents, and so many families rely on the health care professionals at these facilities to care for their loved ones,” Scott said in a written statement. “We must understand why this facility delayed calling 911 and evacuating patients and their decision to keep their patients in danger.”
To try to prevent a similar tragedy from occurring again, Scott on Saturday directed the Agency for Health Care Administration and the Department of Elder Affairs to implement emergency rules aimed at keeping elder Floridians living in nursing homes and assisted living facilities (ALF’s) safe during disasters.
The rules would apply to all 685 nursing homes and 3,109 assisted living facilities in the state.
They will require that within the next 60 days, those facilities “must obtain ample resources, including a generator and the appropriate amount of fuel, to sustain operations and maintain comfortable temperatures for at least 96 hours following a power outage.”
The Florida Health Care Association says it’s supportive of the governor’s call for increased generator capacity at nursing homes and ALF’s but has questions about implementing the requirements.
The association has called an industry-wide meeting for Friday in Tallahassee to discuss issues like how to pay for the generators, how to store the gasoline to power them and whether the guidelines of the order can be met in 60 days.
Reed says the response to the meeting has been overwhelming.
“The response has been fantastic. I’m getting calls from all around the country from people who are interested in participating,” Reed said.
According to the association’s release, the summit will include “long-term care providers, utility companies, generator suppliers, emergency management personnel, regulators, government officials and other emergency planning partners.”
“We must absolutely make sure there are laws in place to keep all vulnerable Floridians safe. I will stop at nothing to protect Floridians,” Scott said “The inability for this nursing home in Broward County to protect life has shined the light on the need for emergency action. Failure to comply will result in penalties, including fines up to $1,000 per day and the possible revocation of a facility’s license.