Monday, July 23, 2018
Hurricane season started June 1 and runs through November. You may recall the tragedy that happened in Florida and the response from Florida requiring SNFs to have generators. So are nursing homes ready for hurricane season in Florida and elsewhere? Bloomberg Law ran this story, Nursing Homes Cautiously Wade Into Hurricane Season.
Nursing homes are reviewing and updating their processes to comply with emergency planning regulations that took effect last November, according to the Washington-based American Health Care Association. Some outside the industry worry, though, that weaknesses still exist—and could put seniors at risk once again. They point to a lack of bite in federal oversight and to limited resources challenging change in institutional care.
One sobering note in the article provided these statistics nationwide: CMS "found more than 1,850 incidents of nursing homes failing to have written emergency evacuation plans between 2011 and 2018, and 3,770 nursing home violations of requirements to inspect power generators weekly and test them monthly...." This data came from "a record review of CMS’s Nursing Home Compare safety deficiency data."
What about Florida? The article notes that Florida is on the right path...but.... "Nursing homes are now “generally much more prepared” for 2018’s hurricane season than they were a year ago, creating plans for emergency power and evacuation ... [and Florida's Agency for Health Care Administration] said the agency would do everything it could to “strictly” hold senior care facilities to the letter of the law, such as fines for noncompliance." Even though the Florida SNFS are following the rules, "just 165 of the 684 providers have implemented a plan and the rest have requested extensions, according to the AHCA’s live tally July 19. Fewer assisted living facilities are in compliance at nearly 73 percent (or 2,260 providers)."
This all sounds good, but if another storm strikes, we may find this isn't enough. One expert in the article pointed out the lack of action at the federal level, offering that "the federal government hasn’t implemented any robust standards changes or safeguards, and there’s “no reason” to believe the same flaws don’t exist this time around...."
The article discusses the issues with lack of resources (isn't that an issue, regardless of hte problem), how there really isn't a one-size-fits-all solution (Oklahoma has tornadoes, but not hurricanes) and the different regulation of SNFs and ALFs.
CMS did act in 2016, unveiling "'all-hazards,' four-pronged approach for nursing home disaster preparation in 2016 that senior care facilities were subject to following the worst of last year’s storms. [CMS required] a facility and community provider risk assessment taking into consideration a provider’s regional susceptibility to different types of emergencies. Providers then had to develop protocols to be reviewed and updated annually for handling potential threats. That extended to the ability to provide care but also equipment and power failures, building or supply loss, and communication flow breaches such as cyberattacks....Nursing homes were also required to develop a communications plan in case of emergency across providers, staff, state and local public health departments, and emergency management agencies, according to the CMS rule (RIN:0938-AO91). And they have to train employees and test and update their emergency plans annually."
Let's hope that we don't have a repeat of those images from last year's storms in Texas and Florida. Advise clients to ask a facility for a copy of their disaster plan and learn about any contracts they have signed with transportation companies to provide evacuation transportation. Also, how does the facility decide whether to evacuate or shelter in place. Cross your fingers-We have 4 months left of hurricane season.