Florida governor gives assisted living communities 60 days to get generators

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Florida Gov. Rick Scott
Florida Gov. Rick Scott

Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Saturday gave all assisted living communities and nursing homes in the state 60 days to obtain generators and enough fuel to enable them “to sustain operations and maintain comfortable temperatures” — defined as at or below 80 degrees — for at least 96 hours following a power outage.

The emergency action follows the death of eight residents of the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, Hollywood, FL, last week after a power outage related to Hurricane Irma knocked out the facility's air conditioning. The order is based on standards already in place at all hospitals in Florida, the governor said.

“During emergencies, healthcare facilities must be fully prepared to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of those in their care, and there is absolutely no excuse not to protect life,” Scott said in a statement. “The inability for this nursing home in Broward County to protect life has shined the light on the need for emergency action.”

Assisted living communities and nursing homes that do not comply with the emergency rules could see fines up to $1,000 per day and possible license revocation.

The action also requires the state fire marshal to inspect the generators within 15 days of installment at affected facilities.

Additionally, the rules require local emergency management offices to either approve or deny each residential healthcare facility's emergency management plan, the submission of which already is required by law, to ensure that it “sufficiently protects life.” All approved plans must be posted to local emergency management agencies' websites within 10 days of approval. Assisted living communities must submit proof of compliance with the emergency rules to the Department of Elder Affairs, and nursing homes must report compliance to the Florida Agency for Healthcare Administration, within 48 hours of their plan's approval.

Scott also said that he will “aggressively fight” for legislation to put these requirements into law next year. 

State Sen. Lauren Book (D), a member of the Florida Senate's Appropriations Committee and its Health and Human Services Subcommittee, filed legislation Friday that would require assisted living facilities and nursing homes to have working generators. State Rep. Jason Brodeur (R), chairman of the Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee in the Florida House, also believes that regulatory changes may be needed for assisted living facilities, reported WUSF News

For now, assisted living communities are affected by an emergency rule under the Florida Department Elder Affairs. Nursing homes are covered by an emergency rule under Florida AHCA.

On Sunday, the Florida Health Care Association announced that it will host a Nursing Center Emergency Preparedness Summit on Friday to discuss the governor's emergency rule for nursing homes. LeadingAge Florida has joined in the effort, too. Invited participants include long-term care providers, utility companies, generator suppliers, emergency management personnel, regulators, government officials and other emergency planning partners, according to FHCA. A spokeswoman for the organization, which also represents assisted living operators, told McKnight's Senior Living that the group is focusing on the nursing home rule.

As of Sunday, according to the governor's office, 205 assisted living communities in the state still were using generators after Hurricane Irma; 2,475 assisted living communities said they had power, 176 reported being closed and 194 reported post-storm evacuations.

On Friday, Florida AHCA said it, along with the Florida Department of Health, was continuing to call assisted living communities, nursing homes and hospitals every day, conducting in-person wellness checks when they cannot reach a facility or for any facility reporting distress.

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