Gov. Rick Scott is taking emergency measures to make sure Florida’s nursing homes are safe after eight people died in an overheated assisted living facility this week.
On Saturday, Scott directed the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration to issue emergency rules requiring all of the state’s assisted living facilities to have generators, a key source of power when electricity goes out.
Per the emergency action, all assisted living facilities and nursing homes must obtain generators and the appropriate amount of fuel to keep them in operation as well as maintaining “comfortable temperatures” for at least 96 hours following a power outage.
Earlier this week, tragedy struck at a Hollywood nursing home when eight elderly people died due to hot conditions after the facility’s air conditioning lost power from Hurricane Irma.
The first call for help from the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills came around 3 a.m. Wednesday morning, with staffers claiming one elderly patient had gone into cardiac arrest after the nursing home had been left without power for several days.
A second call came an hour later -- but by the third call for help, the facility raised eyebrows that the situation may become deadlier and deadlier as temperatures increased and the nursing home was left without adequate air conditioning.
Gov. Rick Scott called the incident “unfathomable” and pledged to hold whoever was responsible for the deaths accountable “to the fullest extent of the law.”
“Every facility that is charged with caring for patients must take every action and precaution to keep their patients safe – especially patients that are in poor health,” Scott said.
The governor’s emergency action will also require State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis to conduct inspections of the generators at the nursing homes within 15 days of their installation.
Local emergency management officials will be required to approve or deny the emergency management plans from residential healthcare facilities.
Each emergency management agency must post all plans to their website within 10 days of the plan’s approval.
Failure to comply with Scott’s emergency rules will result in penalties, including fines up to $1,000 per day and the possible revocation of a facility’s license.
“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 statement. “I am outraged over the deaths of eight Floridians at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills in Broward County and I am demanding answers as we furiously investigate this terrible loss of life.”
Scott and others have questioned why and how the deaths occurred, wondering why it took so long for the nursing home to call 911.
State lawmakers have vowed to take a closer look at the requirements for nursing homes in the wake of Hurricane Irma, which made landfall as a Category 4 storm and caused power outages for millions of people across the state.
Sen Lauren Book, D-Plantation, announced Friday she would be filing a bill requiring all ALFs and nursing homes to have working generators.
“There is no excuse for failing to protect those most vulnerable among us,” said Book. “The loss of eight lives at Hollywood Hills was completely preventable, and that is what is so heartbreaking about this situation. We can prevent these things – which never should have happened in the first place – from happening again…and we must, for the sake of our senior citizens and their families.”