After months of legal wrangling and strong feelings on both sides, the state of Florida has finally enshrined its emergency power rules for skilled nursing facilities into law.
Gov. Rick Scott on Monday signed a pair of bills that will require SNFs and assisted living facilities to have generators capable of maintaining a temperature of 81 degrees or lower for four days, the Associated Press reported.
The twin bills came in the wake of Hurricane Irma, which devastated South Florida late last summer and led to the deaths of 14 residents of a Hollywood, Fla. nursing home that lost power in the sweltering heat. Scott, a Republican, issued an emergency order requiring backup generators, a move that some industry groups initially resisted — not because of the spirit of the law, but because they claimed it would be impossible to implement in the state’s 60-day timeframe.
The two sides eventually worked together to develop a solution that satisfied both the operators and the state, with LeadingAge Florida formally pulling its opposition in January.
The compromise solution reduced the amount of space that would need to be cooled under the new law, as well as a provision allowing SNFs to apply for an extension to the upcoming June 1 deadline if they must perform extensive renovations to comply; if granted, facilities will have until January 1, 2019 to complete the installation.
The new rule will cost operators $365 million over the next five years, according to an analysis by the Sun-Sentinel of Broward County, Fla.
Scott’s signature comes after a state engineering expert last week testified that the use of portable cooling units at the Hollywood facility actually made things worse during the power outage due to a lack of proper ventilation.
“They actually produce more heat than they cool,” state engineer William Scott Crawford said, according to the Miami Herald. “Essentially, the capacity of the spot coolers was insufficient to cool the space in the patient areas.”
Written by Alex Spanko