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John O'Connor
John O'Connor

Well you just knew things were about to start getting nasty for Florida nursing homes.

That's what generally happens when more than a dozen residents die for reasons that are hard to believe.

It may give operators some comfort to know that the deaths were caused by a Hurricane that took much of the Sunshine State off the electric grid.  But in the court of public opinion, that's not much of an argument.

For when you talk to people outside this field, the general reaction runs something like this:

How the heck could a Florida business that houses old people not be prepared for an AC outage?

You might think that in a place where Hurricane evacuation routes are posted and 90-plus degree days are common, backup generators would be required in all eldercare settings. You'd also be wrong. In Florida, they are optional. Or at least they were, until the latest stuff hit the fan.

The first fallout came when Gov. Rick Scott (R) put emergency rules in place mandating generators at skilled care facilities and assisted living communities, within 60 days. Thursday, an appellate court basically ruled he had the right to do so, despite arguments from industry attorneys that Scott had overplayed his hand in issuing such a decree.

Already, about 150 operators have sought waivers, arguing the timeframe is too stringent.

But this is just the start. Already, State Rep. Frederica Wilson (D) announced plans for legislation that promises to be anything but industry friendly. During opening statements Thursday at a disaster preparation hearing in Miami, she reiterated that generators must be universal.

It will be shocking if more stringent requirements are not put in place in Florida. It's also probably a safe bet that new emergency-related requirements related to training and equipment may be coming your way soon, regardless of where your facility is located.

The hurricane's damage may be done. But for many regulators and legislators, the cleanup is just getting started.

John O'Connor is McKnight's Editorial Director.

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Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Emily Mongan.

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