Monday, September 18, 2017
Over the weekend, Florida Governor Rick Scott announced he was "directing" state agencies to "issue emergency rules to keep Floridians safe in health care facilities during emergencies." Arguably, this an example of locking the barn door after the horses have escaped. On the other hand, especially with another hurricane already looming, certainly no political leader wants to be seen as doing nothing.
There are some important questions -- that can perhaps be translated into lessons -- emerging from the most recent tragedy with eight nursing home residents perishing from heat related complications in Broward County Florida after Hurricane Irma.
1. Should States Mandate Specific Equipment? For example, Governor Scott is seeking a rule that mandates "ample resources" including a "generator and the appropriate amount of fuel, to sustain operations and maintain comfortable temperatures for a least 96-hours following a power outage." It should be clear, certainly after Katrina (2005), Harvey (2017) and Irma (2017), that some of the biggest dangers of extreme weather events ares not just the wind or rain or fire or other immediate impact, but the consequences of loss of power or other critical resources.
2. Can Inspectors Better Assure Compliance with Safeguards? Governor Scott's demands focus not just on the care facilities' obligations, but on the role of state and local officials to have a system of checks and balances to increase the likelihood the safeguards are actually in place and operable, and not "just" a written plan for the future.
3. What Safeguards Were Effective At Similarly Situated Facilities? News articles report some push back from providers to Scott's measures, who seem to be arguing feasibility and cost. But, certainly there were providers, faced with the same challenges as the Broward County nursing home, who were successful in protecting their residents. Perhaps the more important lesson to learn -- and learn quickly -- is what was affordable and effective?
Also, I think that there are some questions that can be raised about whether and how family members and the larger community might be able to help as part of a plan for disaster preparedness. Certainly not all, and perhaps not even most, families will be able to help in providing post-disaster assistance including temporary shelter. But, I think at a minimum, families would want to know what steps they might take to be part of the safety plan and post-event response.