The state of Florida this week announced new emergency preparedness rules for skilled nursing facilities, as officials continue to deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.
SNFs in the Sunshine State will now need to prove that they have enough fuel to power a backup generator for 96 hours, keeping ambient temperatures below 80 degrees for the entire span. Operators have 60 days to comply or face fines of up to $1,000 per day — as well as the potential loss of an operating license.
Under the new rules, which also apply to assisted living facilities, SNFs will be required to submit emergency management plans to local officials, which can approve or deny them. Once approved, the local authorities must post the plans on their websites for public review. Fire officials will also visit SNFs to perform generator inspections within 15 days of installation.
“During emergencies, health care 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,” Florida Gov. Rick Scott said in a statement announcing the rule updates.
Hospitals in the state are already required to meet these standards for backup power, Scott’s office said.
The rule comes about a week after a power failure at a Hollywood, Fla. SNF led to the deaths of eight residents in reportedly sweltering temperatures. Administrators at that facility, the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, have since said they made multiple calls to the local power company and emergency management agencies about the lack of electricity — with an administrator at an adjacent behavioral health clinic even attempting to reach Scott on his personal cell phone — though the investigation is ongoing.
Scott, a Republican, expressed anger over the deaths when he announced the new rules, which will be rolled out in conjunction with the state’s Agency for Health Care Administration and Department of Elder Affairs.
“The inability for this nursing home in Broward County to protect life has shined the light on the need for emergency action,” Scott said.
The Florida Health Care Association, which represents 550 nursing homes in the state, applauded Scott’s move, and announced plans to host a September 22 summit in Tallahassee, Fla. on how nursing homes can meet the updated requirements
The FHCA — of which the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills is not a member — also noted that it had supported an ultimately unsuccessful 2006 measure that would have provided reimbursements to nursing homes that purchased backup generators.
“The vast majority of nursing centers in the state continue to modernize their backup systems, including installing backup generators and other supplemental systems,” the FHCA said. “Those efforts and the dedication of our association’s member nursing centers is why the tragedy in Hollywood Hills was an isolated incident.”
Still, some have questioned whether SNFs that do not have backup generators can safely install them within the 60-day window, with a National Fire Protection Association manager telling The New York Times that such sweeping regulations typically need to go through a public comment process.
“The idea and intent is worthy, but that is a lot of generator capacity, design, installation, and inspection to complete in 60 days,” Robert Solomon told the Times.
Written by Alex Spanko