Nursing home safety is a topic spanning decades and reaching far across state lines. Advocates and lawmakers continuously look for ways to improve safety and protect the rights and livelihood of our nation’s most vulnerable residents. One recent article published in McKnight’s Long Term Care News suggests that, in Florida, there is one way to improve nursing home safety that is actually quite simple.
One Simple Way to Improve Nursing Home Safety in Florida
According to the McKnight’s article, one simple way that nursing home safety can be improved in Florida (and elsewhere) is to improve access to backup power sources like generators. States that are often hit by storms – be it tropical or otherwise – should be well-equipped to manage the potential aftermath. Let’s not forget that it was almost one year ago to the week that Hurricane Irma slammed into the Southeastern United States claiming lives and costing billions of dollars in damage.
One of the most tragic elements of that storm was the lives lost in Florida nursing homes after power outages left residents without air conditioning, refrigeration, or proper facilities. At one nursing home alone, 12 residents died due to the unbearable heat and conditions. The facility did not have a generator onsite, or other means of backup power.
In January 2018, Florida Governor Rick Scott announced new rules requiring nursing homes across the state to have alternative backup power sources. Originally, the new rules would require generators, but now that rule has been changed, and facilities are required to have access to alternative power supplies. The rules include specific requirements for fuel supplies to be kept on hand, such as:
- Facilities with 16 beds or less must have at least a two-day fuel supply on hand.
- Facilities with 17 or more beds must have at least three days of fuel on hand.
- All facilities in areas where a state of emergency has been declared must acquire at least four days of fuel.
Since Hurricane Irma, there have been numerous bills put into legislation calling for more strict rules about backup power sources at nursing homes. For months, the nursing home industry balked at the requirements and the potential cost of implementing such requirements, but by early 2018, the industry had decided to work together with lawmakers to improve safety.
The Ongoing Process of Improving Nursing Home Safety
There are currently eight bills in Florida legislation that could require nursing homes to install generators and ensure that air conditioning, etc. can be operated from such backup power supplies. So far, lawmakers have not settled on a single bill, or made any rulings about which bills could be formally passed into state law.
As of early August 2018, it was reported that more than 1,000 Florida senior living operators in Florida still had not installed backup generators on their properties. One of the reasons most commonly cited for the delay or lack of installation is the fact that generators can be expensive to purchase and install. In the McKnight’s article, a valid point was made that such an expense hardly compares to the loss of life and resulting lawsuits and legal fees that result from incidents like Hurricane Irma.
Under the new rules, the expense of installing generators is the responsibility of the facility. There are options to help minimize any financial burden, however, and possible solutions that could be far-reaching. For example, in Florida, several of the bills proposed suggest a grant program be initiated to help facilities cover the cost of purchasing the generators and having them installed.
Another option includes using a program similar to what mobile phone service providers offer to consumers – essentially, a payment plan. If Florida Power & Light Co. offered to sell generators and installation services with a payment plan spread over months or even years, then facilities may be able to better manage the cost without sacrificing the safety of residents in the meantime. Other potential benefits of such an option may include:
- Facility operators showing a commitment to the new rules and nursing home safety.
- The company providing the service demonstrates a commitment to the community.
- Local politicians could send press releases or hold award ceremonies honoring the efforts toward safety and community.
- Politicians, companies, and operators would be coming together to protect thousands of nursing home residents.
Possibilities like this one show that there is hope for improving safety in nursing homes in a way that could support the entire community.
Power Outages and Nursing Home Safety
States like Florida that are prone to stormy seasons and natural disasters must take measures to protect residents. When natural disasters strike, there are a number of factors that can endanger the elderly and nursing home residents. Power outages specifically are dangerous to nursing home residents for a variety of reasons, such as:
- Dimly lit areas may increase the risk of falls.
- Elevators may not work, so residents may be restricted to a certain floor or be forced to use the stairs.
- Air conditioning or heating may not work properly, causing risk of overheating or hypothermia.
- Refrigeration and cooking equipment may not work properly, which can result in malnutrition, food poisoning, or dehydration.
- In an emergency, phones may not work, so facilities may not be able to get help if a resident is injured or ill.
- Healthcare personnel and nurses may not have access to medications, or may not be able to properly store medications.
Learn More about Nursing Home Safety
If you have questions or concerns about nursing home safety, browse our Nursing Home Abuse Center website, or contact Brown & Brothers directly by filling out our online form. Our nursing home abuse attorneys can help you understand your legal rights and how to ensure that your safety, or that of a loved one, is top priority.