77 Percent of State’s Nursing Homes Don’t Have Permanent Generators• Palm Beach Post
By John Pacenti
Now with hurricane season gearing up — and the specter again of widespread power outages — the state announced seemingly good news on Friday: All but one nursing home complied. It also touted that a majority of assisted living facilities — which provide a less comprehensive level of care — were meeting standards set by the new rule as required by June 1.
But hundreds of nursing homes and assisted living facilities in Palm Beach County and the state still have no installed emergency power source for the present hurricane season.
That’s because the industry took full advantage of a carve-out of the new rule, which allows for an extension until Jan. 1, 2019, if they have a plan to bring in a temporary way to cool residents or to evacuate them.
And while a “majority” of ALFs were found in compliance by either having installed a power source or being granted an extension, 48 percent of them were not.
AHCA granted extensions for 526 of the 684 nursing homes in the state — or 77 percent. As a result, all but one nursing home was in compliance with the new state rule, but only 157 of them actually had “implemented” a plan to have the emergency power.
The elder care industry says the extensions are needed, especially for large nursing homes and some ALFs, because of the construction required to install these mammoth generators.
Brian Lee, an elderly advocate who once served as Florida’s ombudsman for seniors, called Friday’s news predictable for nursing homes and ALFs.
“The industry doesn’t have the best track record in the world. You probably have a whole bunch of facilities who are trying, but you also have gobs that are thumbing their nose,” said Lee, executive director for Families for Better Care. “They are crackerjack artists at being able to slipshod the rules.”
Scott championed the generator requirement following the deaths of seniors at The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills last September after Hurricane Irma knocked out power to much of South Florida.
But trade groups pushed back, challenging his initial emergency mandate in court and then derailing lawmakers’ bills that would require stringent compliance and inspections, Lee said.
As a result, Scott loosened the rules initially rolled out. Nursing homes and ALFs now just need to have access only to alternative power sources, not just generators. Fuel requirements were also reduced so that ALFs need to have fuel for just two days for facilities with 16 beds or less.
On Friday, the Agency for Health Care Administration rolled out data that showed nursing homes and ALFs took full advantage of the provision in the new rule to request an extension until January 2019 to implement their emergency power plans.
Elder care facilities are required, under the extension, to keep AHCA apprised of its progress in installing emergency backup power. In the meantime, nursing homes and ALFs have made arrangements to bring in portable generators or moving residents to alternative housing, among other measures, officials said.